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Google Wear OS Watches Will Soon Unlock Android Devices Automatically

Jan 5, 2022, 2:23 PM   by Rich Brome

Google will soon launch a new feature of its platforms that will enable a Wear OS smartwatch to automatically unlock a paired Android phone, tablet, or Chromebook when close by. This mirrors a feature Apple has offered for some time. Google would only promise "in the coming months" as a timeframe for launching the feature. The company is also bringing its Fast Pair technology to more devices, enabling you to use your Android phone to instantly set up a new Chromebook, or more quickly add new smart-home devices to your home network.


Google's New Sound Filter Lets You Tune In to a Specific Person

Dec 8, 2021, 1:14 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has launched a beta version of its Sound Amplifier accessibility app that includes a new "conversation mode" feature. The feature lets you visually select a person speaking near you, after which the on-device machine learning algorithm will "[tune] out competing noise". Google is accepting applications from Pixel phone owners who wish to participate in the beta program.


Google Adds "Area Busyness" to Maps

Nov 17, 2021, 10:54 AM   by Rich Brome

Google has updated its Maps app to expand current and predicted crowded-ness data from individual businesses to whole neighborhoods. The update also expands the Directory feature to help navigate large indoor venues such as malls and airports.


Google Reveals App to Help People with Speech Impairments

Nov 10, 2021, 11:05 AM   by Rich Brome

Google has revealed Project Relate, "a new Android app that aims to help people with speech impairments communicate more easily with others and interact with the Google Assistant." The company is seeking early testers to help refine the app. After personalizing the app by speaking a set of phrases to train it, users can access three key functions. Ther first is "Listen", which transcribes speech into text. Others can read the text from the screen, or it can be cop-and-pasted into other apps. A Repeat mode takes the user's unique speech patterns and restates what they have said using a synthesized voice that is easier for other people (and devices) to understand. Finally, the app provides direct access to Google Assistant, so that Assistant can understand someone with a speech impairment as clearly as anyone else. If you have a condition that makes your speech difficult to understand, you can apply to help provide feedback on the Project Relate Android app as a trusted tester. Google has a long history of developing new accessibility solutions, and eventually folding them into its products, including Android.


Google Makes it Easier to Switch to Android, Including WhatsApp History

Oct 28, 2021, 7:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Google has worked with WhatsApp to let people move their WhatsApp chat history from an iPhone to a new Android phone. The feature builds on the existing transfer feature of Android 12 that can import apps, SMS, iMessage history, photos, videos, contacts, calendars, and more from an existing iPhone. The transfer features work over a wired connection, requiring a Lightning-to-USB-C cable. The new WhatsApp transfer feature ensures thread integrity by blocking new messages on the old device while the transfer is in progress.


Google Tweaks Android Interface for Large Foldables

Oct 27, 2021, 2:29 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has announced a forthcoming update to Android called Android 12L. The "L" stands for large screens. The new features are exclusively for tablets and foldable phones that unfold to tablet-like size. The update brings a new two-column layout to the notification shade and lockscreen, and similar layout optimizations for quick settings, overview, home screen, system apps, and more. A new taskbar provides quick access to favorite apps, and makes it easier to invoke split-screen mode. The company is also making new large-screen APIs and design guidelines available to developers. The APIs include a way for apps to be "fold aware", so the app's layout can account for the location of a display fold. Developers can access a preview version of Android 12L today. Google plans to release 12L "early next year, in time for the next wave of Android 12 tablets and foldables."


Google Lowers Play Store Fees for Subscriptions, Music, E-Books

Oct 21, 2021, 11:52 AM   by Rich Brome

Google is lowering the fees it charges app developers for specific categories of transactions made via Google Play, the company's app store. For apps that offer a paid subscription, (such as dating, fitness, and education apps,) Google's cut of the subscription fees will now be a simple 15% at all times. Previously, it was 30% for the first year of a subscription, then 15% in following years. Google is also tweaking its Play Media Experience program to make many music and e-book providers eligible for rates as low as 10%. Previously, the program's lowest rate was 15%. The Play Media Experience program requires that content providers make their content available beyond Android, across all relevant Google platforms, such as WearOS, Android Auto, Android TV, and Google Cast.


Android 12 is out of Beta and Available for Pixel Phones

Oct 21, 2021, 11:33 AM   by Rich Brome

Google has made the final version of Android 12 available for Pixel 3 and newer Pixel phones. The new OS includes many new privacy features as well as scrolling screenshots and easy Wi-Fi login sharing.


Google Eases the Pain of Calling Customer Support

Oct 21, 2021, 11:28 AM   by Rich Brome

The newest version of Google's Phone app includes two major new features that make it easier to call businesses that make you navigate a menu tree and/or wait on hold before reaching a representative. The first feature, Wait Times, automatically displays a graph showing current and projected wait times for any specific toll-free number you're about to dial. If wait times are unusually long, you can quickly see when in the day or week they are likely to be shorter. The second feature, Direct My Call, automatically listens to and transcribes automated menus, turning them into a visual menu with simple on-screen buttons. The two features are available initially only on the new Pixel 6 series phones. Google often rolls out these types of features to new Pixels first, then to older Pixel models. Some such Pixel features are eventually made available to non-Pixel phones.


Google Pixel 6 Pro is Google's "First Flagship" Phone

Oct 19, 2021, 12:44 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Oct 19, 2021, 2:08 PM

Google released details of the new Pixel 6 series phones that the company has been teasing for months. The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are both high-end phones with a striking new two-tone design and the company's own Tensor chip instead of a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip. Google describes the higher-end Pixel 6 Pro as the company's first true "flagship" model. The Pro has a 6.7-inch QHD-resolution display with 10–120 Hz adaptive refresh. It has three rear cameras, including a 4x periscope telephoto lens with 48 megapixel resolution, and its front camera can record 4K video. It has 12 GB of RAM and the largest battery ever in a Pixel. It also has UWB. The smaller Pixel 6 has a 6.4-inch display with 90 Hz refresh and 8 GB of RAM. Both models have an always-on display with Gorilla Glass Victus and an under-display fingerprint reader. Both models are available 128 or 256 of storage, while the Pixel 6 pro is also available with 512 GB. The distinctive "camera bar" houses upgraded cameras with larger sensors and laser auto-focus. The main camera in both is 50 megapixel. Google claims its new Tensor chip is considerably faster than the Snapdragon 765G chip in the Pixel 5, plus dramatically faster on-device AI. That on-device AI powers several new camera features, including Magic Eraser, Face Unblur, and Motion Mode. It also powers a new, upgraded Voice Typing feature with support for automatic punctuation, intelligent people names, and emoji. Google has also improved the camera software with Real Tone, to better capture skin tone of people of color. Real Tone works in the camera app, third-party software, and the auto-enhance feature in Google Photos. Google promises five years of security updates for the Pixel 6 series. Both phones are available for pre-order starting today, and on store shelves October 28th. Each comes in three unique color options. The Pixel 6 starts at $599; the Pixel 6 Pro starts at $899. The standard unlocked version supports sub-6 GHz 5G. Each model will also come in a distinct Verizon variant that adds support for mmWave 5G. For the Pixel 6, the Verizon version costs and extra $100, while the Pixel 6 Pro for Verizon starts at the same $899 price.


Google Adds Continuous Scrolling to Search Results

Oct 14, 2021, 12:50 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has updated how its displays Google search results on phones. Users can now simply continue scrolling down to see beyond the first "page" of results, instead of needing to tap a "See more" button. The change is rolling out starting today, and applies to both Google searches in a web browser and via the Google app.


Google Adds RSS to Chrome for Mobile

Oct 12, 2021, 10:58 AM   by Rich Brome

Google has added a new feature to the mobile version of its Chrome web browser that lets users subscribe to the RSS feeds of their favorite web sites. The browser's main menu now includes a "+ Follow" button when on a web page that provides an RSS feed. Entries from "followed" RSS feeds will appear in a new "Following" tab on the bottom half of Chrome's New Tab page. The feature is now available in the current version of Chrome for Android, although it may require enabling by going to "chrome://flags" in the browser and searching for "web feed". The feature is coming to the iOS version of Chrome "soon".


Google Rolling Out Smarter Keyboard and Locked Folder to More Android Phones

Sep 23, 2021, 12:07 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Sep 26, 2021, 3:27 PM

Google is adding to Android a number of features that started out exclusive to the company's Pixel phones. An update to the Gboard keyboard adds Smart Compose, which uses machine learning to suggest complete sentences. Gboard is also gaining Smart Clipboard, the ability to intelligently extract phone numbers, email addresses, and URLs from copy-and-pasted text. Finally, "when you open a messaging app right after taking a screenshot, Gboard will now show that screenshot as a suggestion to share." Google is also bringing Locked Folder to general Android. The feature lets you keep sensitive photos and videos in a separate "passcode-protected space" "so they won’t show up as you scroll through Google Photos or any other apps on your device."


Google Assistant Can Now Pay for Gas for You

Sep 23, 2021, 11:53 AM   by Rich Brome

Google today announced a new version of Android Auto with several new features, as well as a revamp of how Driving Mode works in Android. The new version of Android Auto adds the voice command "Hey Google, pay for gas", which will make it faster and easier to pay for gas "at over 32,500 gas stations across the U.S. starting with Exxon and Mobil, Conoco, Phillips 66 and 76 stations." The feature will also work in Google Assistant on Android, without Android Auto. Android Auto is also gaining better support for dual-SIM phones and phones with a Work Profile set up. The home screen for Android Auto will also now feature "music, news and podcast recommendations from Google Assistant." When using Android in your car without Android Auto, Google is pulling its Driving Mode feature out of Maps and into Google Assistant, to make it useful even when not using Maps' navigation features. Now users will "be able to say 'Hey Google, let’s drive' (or connect your phone to your car’s Bluetooth) to open the new driving mode dashboard". The dashboard (shown) supports Maps navigation, but also provides easy, safe access to calls, messaging, music, and podcasts whether using navigation or not, via voice commands or oversize buttons.


Google Bringing Permissions Auto-Reset to Older Android Phones

Sep 20, 2021, 10:20 AM   by Rich Brome

Older versions of Android will soon gain the Permissions Auto-Reset feature that Google introduced in Android 11. The feature will automatically revoke permissions from apps that haven't been used in "a few months". If the app is launched again, it will need to request permissions from the user again. The feature "helps protect user privacy", because "it can be tough to keep up with the permissions you’ve previously granted – especially if you haven’t used an app for an extended period of time." The feature will roll out to devices with Android 6.0 and newer over a four-month period starting in December.


Google Testing New Search and Share Features in Chrome for Android

Sep 1, 2021, 10:59 AM   by Rich Brome

The newest beta version of Google's Chrome web browser for Android includes two major new features. After executing a Google search and choosing a result, a new bar below the address bar lets you quickly navigate to a different search result. The other new feature automatically creates stylized images of text when you want to share a quote from a web page. To use it, you select a bit of text on a web page, choose "Share" and then "Create card". You can then choose from several visual styles. The resulting image includes the quote and web page address, and makes it easier to share quotes and web pages on social media, especially visual platforms such as Instagram. Both features are only available in the beta version of Chrome for new, and must be manually enabled by entering chrome://flags in the address bar.


South Korea Passes Major New Law Targeting In-App Purchases

Aug 31, 2021, 1:48 PM   by Rich Brome

South Korea's National Assembly has passed a new law that will require Apple and Google to open up in-app purchases to third-party payments. Apple and Google currently require the use their own payment systems for in-app purchases, from which the companies extract a cut of up to 30%. The law also regulates approval times for new apps, as well as reasons for removing apps from app stores. The new law is similar to ones being considered in the US and EU, but South Korea will be the first major market to implement such a law. The law will go into effect as soon as the President Moon Jae-in signs it, as he is expected to do.


Google Pixel 5a Sports Large Battery, Water Resistance

Aug 17, 2021, 11:44 AM   by Rich Brome

Google today revealed the Pixel 5a, a more-affordable alternative to the Pixel 5 and modest update to the Pixel 4a 5G. Like most Pixel "a" models, it has a larger display, larger battery, and a headset jack, yet is more affordable than the flagship models by skipping features like fast display refresh and wireless charging. For the first time in an "a" model, the Pixel 5a has IP67 water resistance, enough to be submerged in shallow water for short periods of time. It also has the largest battery ever in a Pixel phone at 4,680 mAh, and largest display at 6.34 inches. Otherwise, it shares most features and specs with other recent Pixel phones, such as a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G chip, 6 GB RAM, 128 GB storage, full-HD OLED display, 12 megapixel main camera + 16 megapixel wide camera, 8 megapixel front camera, NFC, fast charging, and a rear fingerprint reader. As expected with any Pixel phone, it has excellent support for all 4G and sub-6 5G networks in the US, including forthcoming C-band networks. The Pixel 5a ships August 26th in Mostly Black for $449. Pre-ordering is open now.


Google Adds Face Gestures to Android Accessibility Options

Aug 16, 2021, 12:16 PM   by Rich Brome

The newest beta version of Android 12 brings a new accessibility option to Android: face gestures. The feature recognizes six different face gestures using the front camera, and lets users assign those to specific actions that work across many apps. The face gestures are: open mouth, smile, raise eyebrows, look left, look right, and look up. The actions include: scroll forward, scroll backward, next, previous, select, touch & hold, back, home, notifications, and quick settings. The feature is available Settings > Accessibility > Switch Access. Switch Access was originally designed to work with hardware buttons connected via USB or Bluetooth. Now a "Camera Switch" option has been added. Users of some phones may need to install Android Accessibility Suite from the Google Play Store.


New Senate Bill Would Reshape App Stores

Aug 12, 2021, 10:02 AM   by Rich Brome

A bipartisan group of three US Senators has introduced new legislation that would place major new rules on the app stores run by Apple and Google. The Open App Markets Act would:

  • Ensure users could access third-party app stores and make them the default.
  • Ensure users could access third-party apps and make them the default.
  • Ensure users could install third-party apps and app stores through a method other than the main app store (side-loading).
  • Ensure users could hide or delete default apps, the default app store, and pre-installed apps from business partners.
  • Ensure developers could use third-party systems for in-app payments.
  • Ensure developers could offer more favorable pricing outside of a given app store.
  • Prevent Apple and Google from giving preference to their own apps (or those of business partners) in search results and rankings.
  • Prevent Apple and Google from giving their own apps special API access not available to third-party apps. This clause has special exceptions for user privacy, security, and digital safety; spam or fraud prevention; and complying with Federal or State law.
The legislation targets Apple and Google rather specifically by only applying to app stores with over 50 million users in the US. The bill was introduced by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). A similar bill is expected in the House shortly. The Open App Markets Act has been endorsed by number of technology and consumer groups, including Consumer Reports, Internet Accountability Project, Coalition for App Fairness, Lincoln Network, Digital Progress Institute, and Electronic Frontier Foundation. Apple and Google are expected to lobby heavily against the bill, as they have against similar measures at the state level.


Samsung Updates Watch, Buds

Aug 11, 2021, 9:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Samsung today announced new smartwatches and Bluetooth earbuds: the Galaxy Watch4 series and Galaxy Buds2. Both feature a long list of small improvements over their predecessors. The Galaxy Watch4 has a smooth, thin design similar to the old Galaxy Watch Active, with an aluminum body. The Galaxy Watch4 Classic steps up to stainless steel and adds a physically rotating bezel. Both are available with or without 4G LTE, and in two sizes. The Watch4 series now includes more and better Google apps, faster automatic workout recognition, more accurate calorie counts, better sleep tracking, a sharper always-on AMOLED display, faster charging, and a thinner body. A new "BioActive" sensor combines optical and electric heart sensors, plus Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis, which offers body composition stats. The Watch4 series also has a Samsung Exynos processor that uses cutting-edge 5nm technology for greater efficiency. The Watch4 series is the first tangible fruit of a collaboration between Google and Samsung. The two companies have combined the best of their smartwatch technology to create "Wear OS Powered by Samsung". Samsung has added their own software on top of that called One UI Watch, which lets a Samsung phone, watch, and/or earbuds act intelligently as one system. Key settings and app installs are automatically synced between phone and watch. Meanwhile, the Galaxy Buds2 are 15% smaller and 20% lighter than their predecessor. They include ANC that can cut background noise "by up to 98%", and triple mics with beam-forming for clear outbound audio, enhanced with machine learning. The ambient audio feature is adjustable. The Galaxy Watch4 series starts at $250, or $300 with 4G LTE. The Watch4 Classic is $100 more. Pre-orders start today. The Buds2 are $150 and come in graphite, white, olive, and lavender. Both will hit stores August 27th.


Google Focuses on NFC for its Titan Security Keys

Aug 10, 2021, 10:16 AM   by Rich Brome

Google has simplified its lineup of Titan hardware security keys, dropping Bluetooth options in favor of NFC to connect to phones. There are now just two models, one with USB-A and another with USB-C for connecting to computers. Titan keys offer a vastly more secure way to sign in to online services compared to passwords and SMS codes. They also protect against phishing.


Google Switches to its own Silicon for Pixel 6 and 6 Pro

Aug 2, 2021, 11:39 AM   by Rich Brome

Google today released photos and select details of its next flagship phones — the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro — in a Twitter thread and teaser web page. Both phones are designed around "Tensor", a "brand new chip designed by Google, custom-made for Pixel". Tensor is a complete smartphone SoC (system-on-chip), meaning it takes the place of a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip. Tensor is a brand Google has used for its machine-learning (ML) hardware and software in the past, and indeed this new Tensor chip "can process Google’s most powerful AI and ML models directly" on the phone, enhancing camera and speech features. The Pixel 6 series has a unique two-tone design, with each model coming in three different color options. The two colors on the back are split by a black camera bar that sticks out. The Pixel 6 will have two cameras, while the Pixel 6 Pro will add a 4x telephoto camera. Google also promises "the most layers of hardware security in any phone". Google is saving further details for a future announcement, but promises that the phones are coming "this fall".


Verizon Turns to Messages by Google for Enhanced Messaging

Jul 20, 2021, 10:30 AM   by Rich Brome

Messages by Google will come pre-loaded and be the default messaging app on all Verizon Android devices starting next year. T-Mobile made a similar announcement in March, as did AT&T earlier this month. That means all three top-tier mobile networks in the US have now standardized on Messages by Google as the default app for RCS. RCS is the industry standard for enhanced messaging, designed to replace SMS. RCS offers features like read receipts, higher-quality photos and videos, and end-to-end encryption for one-on-one conversations. Verizon is also working to enable RCS interoperability across all carrier networks, but has not yet committed to a timeline for that. Verizon continues to offer and improve its own messaging app, Message+, even though it will no longer be the default messaging app starting next year. Customers using Message+ will get "full access to RCS capabilities by the end of the year". Verizon is also teaming with Google "to provide a robust business-to-consumer messaging ecosystem using RCS." Verizon's announcement today is a huge step for the RCS standard, which has suffered a long and tortured road to full implementation. Although there's now a clear path to a seamless and consistent enhanced messaging experience for Android users in the US, Apple has yet to support RCS in iOS. This means enhanced messaging is not yet interoperable between Android and iOS devices.


Android Gains Smarter Auto-Rotate and Long Screenshots

Jul 14, 2021, 12:37 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has released Android 12 Beta 3, which includes two major new features. The first is an enhanced auto-rotate feature that uses the front camera and face detection to orient the screen correctly while the user is lying down. This feature uses the new Private Compute Core feature of Android to ensure all processing takes place locally on the device in way that protects user privacy. The other new feature is Scrolling screenshots, which lets users capture long content that does not fit on one screen, saved in one image, in a simple and standard way. Users simply take a screenshot in the standard way, then tap the new "Capture more" button. Users are shown a thumbnail preview of the full-length screenshot, with the option to crop to just the section they want to save. Android 12 is still in development and may be unstable. Consumers are advised to not install beta software on their primary phone. Beta 4, due in August, will bring "platform stability" for developers, meaning APIs will not change. Subsequent releases will focus solely on fixing bugs.


Google Adds COVID Cards to Android Wallet

Jul 1, 2021, 11:04 AM   by Rich Brome

Google has updated the Passes feature in Android to specifically support COVID vaccination and test cards. This brings vaccine passport functionality directly into Android 5 and later. Although the functionality is part of the Google Pay for Passes API, these "COVID Cards" can be used even without the Google Pay app installed. Google Pay for Passes is the same API used for loyalty cards, coupons, gift cards, boarding passes, transit tickets, and event tickets in Google Pay. Starting today, authorized COVID vaccine and/or test providers in the US can access the new APIs and begin issuing COVID Cards that prove vaccination status or test results. A COVID Card can be accessed as a shortcut on the home screen. COVID Card data is stored directly on the phone and not accessible to Google. An extra security step is required to access a COVID Card, similar to using Google Pay.


Google Enables End-To-End Encryption in Messages

Jun 16, 2021, 12:01 PM   by Rich Brome

As part of a broad set of updates rolling out to most Android users this summer, Google is enabling two major new features in its Messages app. The first is end-to-end encryption for one-on-one conversations between Messages users. This means that when two users are both using the updated Messages app on Android with chat features enabled, their conversations will be encrypted so that no one — not even Google or their cellular provider — can see the content of your messages. The feature does not currently work with group conversations, nor when either party is using a messaging app other than Google Messages. Users can confirm that their conversation is fully encrypted when they see a small padlock icon added to the send button. The other new feature coming to Messages is the ability to "star" important individual messages within conversations. Starred messages are then collected in a new Starred category so they're easy to find later.


Android 12 Beta 2 Brings New Internet, Privacy Controls

Jun 10, 2021, 12:12 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jun 10, 2021, 5:41 PM

Google has released the second beta version of Android 12, which introduces several key features not found in the first beta. A new "Internet" quick setting consolidates Wi-Fi and cellular connections into one simpler control for Internet connections. Also new are universal, system-wide indicators and toggle controls for the microphone and cameras. It's now obvious at a glance any time any app is accessing the mic or camera, and such access can be switched off for all apps with one tap. There's also a new pop-up notification when an app accesses the clipboard and it contains data from another app. Finally, the new Privacy Dashboard offers a timeline view of all recent app accesses to microphone, camera, and location. The beta is intended only for developers and not for anyone's primary device. Phone Scoop has observed a relatively high level of instability with this particular version installed on a Pixel 5.


Google Releases Pixel Feature Drop

Jun 8, 2021, 7:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Google today released its June security update for Pixel phones, which this month brings several new features along for the ride. When using the Night Sight camera mode to take long-exposure photos of the night sky (astrophotography), a Pixel phone will now record a short video along with the photo, showing the stars in motion. Another new feature lets you answer or reject a call with Google Assistant by saying "Hey Google, answer call" or "Hey Google, reject call." These two new features require a Pixel 4 or newer. For Pixel models 3 and newer, the update also introduces the previously-announced Locked Folder feature in Google Photos, to keep sensitive photos private, and the Heads Up feature to remind you to look up periodically while walking and using your phone.


Google Intros $99 Pixel Buds

Jun 3, 2021, 1:11 PM   by Rich Brome

Google today announced the Pixel Buds A-Series, a new model of the company's true wireless earbuds that keeps most of the features of last year's Pixel Buds, but brings the price down from $179 to $99. The new A-series has a similar design for both the buds and charging case. Like the original, the buds feature custom-designed 12 mm dynamic speaker drivers. Adaptive Sound provides automatic volume compensation based on ambient noise levels. Beamforming mics ensure your voice is heard clearly during calls. Advanced Google Assistant features include real-time language translation, in either one-way or two-way mode. Improving on the original Pixel Buds, the new model uses a direct connection between each bud and the phone other other source device, instead of one bud relying on the other for a connection. The A-Series is cheaper thanks to fewer extra sensors, which means they don't support swipe gestures to change volume, nor automatic listening for specific sounds like a dog barking or baby crying. The buds are available in either Clearly White (with light gray accents) or Dark Olive. Pre-orders start today, with deliveries starting June 17th.


Qualcomm, Google Bring Updateable Drivers to AI

May 24, 2021, 10:51 AM   by Rich Brome

Qualcomm recently announced updatable NNAPI drivers in Android for new and existing Snapdragon chips. This means the software drivers that connect apps to the AI processing hardware of Snapdragon chips can now be updated easily and regularly via Google Play Services. This is similar to how Qualcomm recently made its graphics drivers updateable, but for AI. This will enable Snapdragon-powered Android phones to enjoy potential AI performance and feature gains over time, without waiting for a major OS update from the manufacturer. Apps that will benefit include Google Assistant and Google Maps.


Google Reboots WearOS, Merges with Samsung's Tizen

May 18, 2021, 1:52 PM   by Rich Brome

Google today announced a major revamp of its smartwatch platform, combining its existing WearOS with Samsung's Tizen, together with a new health and fitness platform from FitBit. Although Samsung will use the new platform in its future smartwatches, it will be available to other manufacturers as well. Google is redesigning all of its apps for the platform. Google promises apps that are 30% faster, better battery life, and enough efficiency to offer continuous heart rate monitoring 24/7. The platform will utilize the Google Play Store for third-party apps.


Android 12 Sports New, Customizable Look

May 18, 2021, 1:42 PM   by Rich Brome   updated May 18, 2021, 1:20 PM

Google today took the wraps off the new consumer-facing features of Android 12. The most obvious is "Material You", a new iteration of Google's Material Design. Material You offers an array of customization features, including color palette, line widths, and more. It can take colors from a photo. Material You will launch first on Google Pixel phones and throughout all Google apps, but your custom choices will eventually extend to all Google products you use. The notification shade and Quick Settings are also getting a major overhaul. This includes "more intuitive" notifications, and new Quick Settings widgets for Google Play, Google Home, and system-wide disabling of app access to the camera and/or microphone. Improved indicators clearly show when an app is accessing your camera and/or mic. A new Car Key feature will use NFC and UWB to enable your phone to automatically unlock your car as you approach it. The feature will also allow you to share a temporary digital key with a friend. Car Key will be available first on Pixel and Samsung phones this fall. Android 12 also has a more "playful" lock screen with "dynamic lighting" animations. Google has also changed the shortcut for accessing Assistant (again) to be a long press of the lock button. Google also promises performance improvements under the hood that should make the whole OS faster. A beta version will be available starting today for phones from 12 different manufacturers.


Google Announces New Security, Privacy Features for Android

May 18, 2021, 12:58 PM   by Rich Brome

Google today revealed several new security and privacy features across its platforms, including Android. A new Locked Folder protects selected photos and videos with an additional layer of security. This feature is coming soon to Pixel phones, to be followed by other Android phones. In Search, a new option immediately deletes the last 15 minutes of search activity. Finally, Google's Password Manager is gaining a new option to import passwords from other password managers. Password Manager will continue to sync automatically between Android and Chrome on the desktop, but this integration will be "deepened". These features were announced during the keynote at this year's Google I/O developer event today.


Google Adding Data Safety Info to Android App Listings

May 7, 2021, 10:01 AM   by Rich Brome

Google this week announced new requirements for Android apps listed in the Google Play store to clearly disclose what user data the app collects, how it's used, how it's shared, how it's protected (such as encryption), and what choices users have in regard to that data. Also required is whether the app meets Google's requirements for family-friendly apps. The user choice section includes whether users have a choice in sharing data in the first place, and whether users can have their data deleted when the app is uninstalled. There will be an additional line for whether compliance with all of the above has been verified by an independent third party. App developers will be responsible for the accuracy of this information. If Google finds that a developer has misrepresented the data safety info they've provided, the app will be subject to "policy enforcement", after first being given an opportunity to become compliant. Developers can start submitting this info to Google toward the end of this year. It will be rolled out to users at the beginning of 2022, and become required for all apps in the second quarter of 2022. Apple launched a similar App Privacy section for its App Store listings last year.


Supreme Court Rules Google's Use of Java in Android is Fair Use

Apr 5, 2021, 9:55 AM   by Rich Brome

The Supreme Court today ruled against Oracle in its bid to force Google to pay for implementing Java in the Android smartphone operating system (OS). Oracle owns the intellectual property and copyrights for Java, but Java is widely used throughout the open-source software community. In creating Android, Google created APIs that allowed developers to write Android apps using Java. Oracle claimed in court that these APIs amounted to copyright infringement, while Google argued that the APIs were covered by the legal doctrine of "fair use". Oracle was seeking over $9 billion in damages. While an appeals court found in favor of Oracle, today's Supreme Court ruling settles the matter in favor of Google. The decision was 6-2. The decision is also a relief for the open-source community and many smaller software companies.


Google Maps Brings AR Navigation Indoors, Sorts Route Options by Carbon Footprint

Mar 30, 2021, 9:18 AM   by Rich Brome

Google today announced a variety of new features for its Google Maps app. The flashiest is indoor Live View for select airports, transit stations, and malls. This augmented reality (AR) mode overlays step-by-step navigation instructions on a real-time view of your indoor surroundings via your phone's camera. The first locations supported are malls in Chicago, Long Island, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle, followed by select airports, malls, and transit stations in Tokyo and Zurich, "with more cities on the way". The feature can help you "find the nearest elevator and escalators, your gate, platform, baggage claim, check-in counters, ticket office, restrooms, ATMs and more". Google Maps is also gaining new navigation features that take into account carbon footprint. When multiple driving routes are available, it will show which route(s) are most fuel-efficient, and by how much, as a percentage. When multiple routes have approximately the same ETA as the fastest route, it will default to the more fuel-efficient route. Maps will also now offer route options that include transit or bike without toggling between tabs.


T-Mobile Makes Google's Messages the Default Messaging App on All Android Phones

Mar 29, 2021, 4:12 PM   by Rich Brome

T-Mobile is deepening its ties with Google in several new areas, including committing 100% to Google's solution for rich messaging based on the RCS standard. Going forward, all Android phones sold by T-Mobile will have Google's Messages app set as the default (RCS-based) messaging experience. T-Mobile will also be carrying and promoting more Pixel devices going forward, and pushing Google One "as the preferred phone backup and cloud storage solution". T-Mobile is also abandoning its own new live-TV service in favor of YouTube TV "as T-Mobile's premium TV solution".


Google Standardizing Secure Element Interfaces for Digital Keys, IDs, and Wallets

Mar 29, 2021, 10:45 AM   by Rich Brome

Google recently announced the formation of the Android Ready SE Alliance, a collaboration between Google and the makers of "secure element" chips for phones and similar devices. The new initiative will enable all Android phone makers to more easily implement hardware security features that match the functionality and security of Pixel phones (which use Google's Titan M secure element chip). A secure element is discrete, tamper-resistant hardware that protects the integrity a user's data, keys, wallet, etc. The Android Ready SE Alliance has specific requirements to ensure that implementations are secure. The Alliance is also releasing specific software called SE Applets, which run on the secure element chips and implement specific features "in conjunction with corresponding Android feature releases". The first Applet is StrongBox, which simply stores and handles cryptographic keys. The next two Applets will be for digital IDs (including mobile driver's licenses) and digital car keys. Phone makers can choose secure element chips from any of the five participating hardware vendors: Giesecke+Devrient, Kigen, NXP, STMicroelectronics, and Thales.


Google Drops Play Store Commission to 15% for Most Developers

Mar 16, 2021, 2:27 PM   by Rich Brome

Following the launch of Apple's "App Store Small Business Program" a few months ago, Google today followed suit by also halving its app store commission from 30 to 15 percent for smaller developers. Starting July 1, 2021, Google will only take 15% for all digital goods or services sold on the Google Play platform for the first $1 million. Revenues above $1 million for any given developer will continue to see a 30% commission. Apple's program differs in that businesses must apply to a special program to receive the 15% rate, and are only eligible if they earn $1 million or less in annual proceeds. Google's 15% rate applies to the first $1 million in revenue automatically, regardless of company size.


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