Google is rolling out its own call verification system that will allow the incoming call screen on Android phones to not only confirm that a call is legitimate, but also display the calling business' reason for calling and company logo. The feature requires that the phone's default phone app be set to Google's Phone app, that businesses supply this information to Google's servers before each call, and that users have the phone's mobile number associated with their Google account.
The Google Photos app and service has been redesigned, and now includes a map feature that lets you explore all of the photos you've ever taken as pins on a map. The map feature is part of a new Search tab in the redesigned app interface. The new Search tab also includes automatic shortcuts to specific people and pets that you frequently photograph, using automatic facial recognition. The new Google Photos app "rolls out over the next week" on Android and iOS.
The first public beta version of Android 11 is now available for Pixel phones. The release contains several new features not previously announced, in addition to features announced in February. Long-pressing the lock/power button will now bring up smart home controls, in addition to Google Pay and power options. New media controls make it easier to switch audio and/or video outputs. To enhance privacy, app permissions will automatically reset when an app hasn't been used for "an extended period of time". Also improved are keyboard suggestions, Voice Access, the Share menu, and features for developers. The beta is available now for Pixel 2+ phones, and other devices in the coming weeks.
Google has rolled out another "feature drop" for its Pixel phones, adding several new features via software update. The Personal Safety app, previously exclusive to Pixel 4, will now be available on all Pixel phones. It also gains a new "Safety Check" feature that lets you schedule a time for the app to ask if you're safe. If you fail to acknowledge, it will alert your emergency contacts. The app will also support car crash detection on Pixel 3 devices. The feature drop also includes a new "bedtime" feature in the Clock app, which includes an array of features to help you maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Finally, the update also improves battery life and adds Assistant shortcuts for the Recorder app.
Apple and Google have started to make their new, jointly-developed Exposure Notification technology available for public use. The technology automatically tracks which other phones your phones has been near for a certain period of time, using a new, Bluetooth-based system. When one user reports that they have tested positive for COVID-19, other users they have come into contact with are automatically alerted, so they can get tested. The system uses anonymous, frequently-changed tokens to preserve privacy. To use the system, users must install an official app from their local public health agency and explicitly opt in to the service. Apple and Google are only allowing one app per geographic region, and have multiple safeguards in place to protect user privacy, including a ban on collecting users' locations. The system is available now for public health agencies to develop and release their apps using the system, although not all governments plan to do so. It requires a new OS version to function. Apple released iOS 13.5 today, which includes Exposure Notification as well as other features specific to the ongoing pandemic. New versions of Android are expected soon that support Exposure Notifications. The two companies have promised a more comprehensive version of Exposure Notification in the coming months that will not require the installation of a special app, although it will remain opt-in.
Google has updated its Google Lens computer-vision app with several new features. The app already recognizes printed and hand-written text in the real world, letting you copy it into other apps on your phone, or translate it to another language. A new option lets you select text and send it to you computer's clipboard, where it can be pasted into other apps. The feature requires the Chrome browser on your computer, and that both devices be signed in to the same Google account. Also new in Google Lens is a feature that tells you how to pronounce translated words. Google Lens is available for both Android and iOS.
Apple and Google are preparing to launch Exposure Notification, a new technology to address the COVID-19 pandemic based on the principles of contact tracing. The first phase will center around downloadable apps developed by various government public health agencies. These apps will have exclusive access to new Exposure Notification APIs in forthcoming versions of Android and iOS. Apple and Google recently announced special rules that will apply to such apps. The companies will only allow one app per geographic region. The apps can only be used for pandemic response and no other purpose. To protect privacy, the apps must minimize the amount of data they collect, and are barred from collecting location data. The apps must also gain explicit user consent for initiating Exposure Notification technology, which operates using Bluetooth in the background.
A new contact-tracing technology developed by Apple and Google to address the COVID-19 pandemic will see its first release to developers on April 28th, earlier than originally planned. The technology uses Bluetooth to keep a history of which phones come near which other phones for certain periods of time, as an approximation of people who have come into contact, so that when someone tests positive for COVID-19, other people who need to be tested can be identified quickly. The technology is fully interoperable between iOS and Android phones, thanks to a unique collaboration between Google and Apple. The API being released next week will enable verified public health authorities to use the technology in their own apps. Such apps will need to be installed on a large percentage of phones for the technology to be useful in any given population. Later, Apple and Google plan to integrate a more complete contact-tracing technology into both iOS and Android, which would not require an app install. Apple and Google have designed the technology to be anonymous, voluntary, transparent, temporary, secure, and interoperable, and EU regulators are working with the companies to ensure the technology meets their strict standards in those areas.
The popular battle royale game Fortnite is finally available via Google's Play Store on Android phones. Previously, those with Android phones had to jump through hoops to download and install the game, bypassing Google's security warnings. The game's developer has been protesting Google's 30% cut of Play Store purchases, including in-app purchases. Fortnite has been available via Apple's App Store on iOS for some time, even though Apple takes the same 30%.
Google has updated its Duo video calling service with several new features. First, the maximum number of people on a group video has been increased from eight to 12, and will be increased further in "the coming weeks". Google has also added a photo snapshot feature that will capture a moment and send the still photo of everyone to all participants, to save. Finally, Google is upgrading to the new AV1 video codec, "to improve video call quality and reliability, even on very low bandwidth connections." All of these new features work across both Android and iOS versions of Duo, and most work across other platforms as well.
Google is tightening both its policies and practices regarding Android apps with subscriptions, including those with free trails or introductory offers. Under updated Play Store policies, Google will now require apps to make clearer disclosures up front about how a specific subscription works. Google will also pro-actively send timely emails to users to ensure they aren't billed for a subscription they may be unaware of, or have forgotten about. Google will now email users before a free trial or intro price ends, and also when a renewal is coming up for a 3-month, 6-month, or annual subscription plan. Google is also adding a specific notification to let users know that un-installing an app does not automatically cancel the associated subscription.
Google is updating its Play Store for Android with a new Kids tab, highlighting "'Teacher approved' apps that are both enriching and entertaining". The Kids tab lets you filter by age group. Each "Teacher approved" app has been reviewed by academic experts and teachers and meets Google's quality standards. A new section on the app's page lists specific reasons that app earned the "Teacher approved" badge. The feature is rolling out this week in the US, expanding internationally in the coming months.
Apple and Google will work together to build interoperable contact-tracing technology into both the Android and iOS phone OSes. The technology will use Bluetooth — which has a typical range of about 30 feet — to keep track of everyone you come near, so that public health workers can quickly look for additional new infections when someone is diagnosed with COVID19 (Coronavirus). This new OS-level technology will have an API designed to integrate with official apps offered by public health authorities. Google and Apple have committed to making "user privacy and security central to the design". The technology will roll out in two phases. First, in May, both companies will release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. Second, in the coming months, Apple and Google will build a full contact-tracing function into each OS that is opt-in and works without a special app.
Google is expanding the accessibility options in its Android OS with the addition of a braille keyboard option. It uses a standard six-key layout common for braille input. It works across all apps, supports braille grade 1 and grade 2 and is available initially in English. The feature is rolling out to Android devices running version 5.0 or later, starting today.
Google has updated its Maps app with prominent filter options for restaurants offering Delivery and Takeout, to help people find and support local businesses during the pandemic. The feature is available in the Maps app for both Android and iOS.
Google has redesigned its Podcasts app, and made a version available in Apple's App Store for iPhone users. Google Podcasts now stays fully synced between all platforms, including Android, web, and iOS, so you can pause a podcast on your phone and automatically pick up where you left off on the web. The new interface design has three tabs: Home, Explore and Activity. The Home tab features a feed of new episodes and gives you quick access to your subscribed shows. When you select an episode you want to listen to, you'll now see topics or people covered in that podcast. In the Explore tab, you can browse popular podcasts by category, and the app will make personalized show and episode recommendations. The Activity tab displays your listen history, queued up episodes, and downloads. For each show in your subscriptions, you can now enable automatic downloading and/or push notifications for when new episodes come out. The new Google Podcasts is available on iOS today and rolling out to Android this week.
Google will no longer hold any sort of developer event this year, due to the current pandemic. The company's annual I/O event was already changed to an online-only format, but now will not happen at all.
Google will not hold its annual, in-person developer conference this year, to avoid the risk of the gathering helping to spread the coronavirus (COVID-19). The company is refunding paid attendees. A Google spokesperson said the company "will explore other ways to evolve Google I/O to best connect with and continue to build our developer community."
Google today started rolling out a new software update for Pixel phones that adds new capabilities. A long-press of the lock/power button will now surface a simple Google Pay interface that lets you swipe to choose a card or pass before tapping. Another new feature will automatically detect airline boarding pass barcodes when taking a screenshot, and suggest the option to add them as a pass in Google Pay. There is also a new option to have Dark Theme enabled automatically when the sun sets locally. On Pixel 4 phones (which have a RADAR-based gesture sensor), a new mid-air "tap" gesture will pause/play music. Pixel 4 phones will also now be able to capture depth information with the selfie camera, "which improves Portrait Blur and color pop, and lets you create 3D photos for Facebook." Finally, new settings let you configure location-based actions, such as silencing the ringer when at work, or Do Not Disturb mode at home. These can be triggered by either standard location or being in range of a specific Wi-Fi network.
To improve user privacy, Google is updating its Play Store policies to restrict the use of location data by Android apps when they're not actively running. Currently, any Android app can request permission for such access from the user. Starting in August, apps will only be able to do so with explicit permission from Google, having demonstrated a specific need for access to location data in the background. In November, Google will remove apps from the Play Store that have not complied with the new policy. Also today, Google announced the first Developer Preview of Android 11, which includes a new user option to allow apps to access location data on a one-time basis.
Google has released the first Developer Preview of Android 11. The list of features in this version provides a glimpse of what to expect when Android 11 becomes available to consumers later this year. Messaging receives the biggest update, with a new dedicated section of the notifications shade devoted to ongoing conversations. Messaging apps can also use "bubbles" to float a simple messaging thread window above other apps. System permission dialog boxes (for access to location, etc.) now have an "Only this time" option, similar to iOS. Android 11 also adds native support for secure storage and retrieval of verifiable identification documents, such as ISO 18013-5 compliant Mobile Driving Licenses. Call screening apps will now have standardized access to STIR-SHAKEN data, as well as a new screen that appears after each call, "to let users perform actions such as marking a call as spam or adding to contacts.". Also new are better support for pinhole displays, waterfall displays, animated HIEF image files, and low-latency video modes. Developers will benefit from new APIs for machine learning, as well as 5G network status and performance. Android 11 also advances Google's Project Mainline, moving additional components of the OS into modules that are quickly and easily updated via the Google Play Store, instead of requiring a manufacturer-supplied full OS update. The Developer Preview released today is not a "public beta" and is not intended for consumers; it will only run on certain Pixel devices and requires manual installation. Separately, Google announced that Android 11 will enhance Work Profile so that companies issuing company-owned phones to employees can give employees separate work and personal profiles on the same device. Companies still control the work profile and can set device-wide restrictions, but personal data is kept private from the employer. This feature was previously only available for personally-owned devices, not company-issued devices. Google is expected to reveal additional features of Android 11 at its developer conference in May.
Google is expanding the list of phones supported by its Stadia game-streaming service on February 20th. Initially supported only on its own Pixel phones, Stadia will support Samsung flagship Galaxy S and Note series phones (S8 and newer), as well as gaming phones from Razer and Asus (ROG Phone and ROG Phone II). For a controller, gamers can either connect a Stadia controller via USB, or third-party controllers via Bluetooth. Stadia competes with Microsoft's xCloud and Nvidia's GeForce Now. Like those other game-streaming services, Stadia runs full console-quality games on powerful servers in the cloud, streaming video of the rendered graphics to the user's device. Such services benefit from the higher data rates and lower latency of 5G networks. Forthcoming 5G SA networks will further reduce latency and improve data rates.
Google has updated its Gboard keyboard option for Android phones to include a new Emoji Kitchen feature, which lets you create sticker graphics based on custom combinations and variations of standard emoji. For example, when you tap the face-with-cowboy-hat emoji, it presents options for monkey cowboy, ghost cowboy, laughing cowboy, kissy cowboy, in love cowboy, pleading cowboy, and pensive cowboy. The feature is rolling out to all Gboard users starting this week.
Google has launched a new support service for Android. Anyone using the hashtag #AndroidHelp on Twitter will receive Android tech support from Google.
Transact — a leading supplier of student ID card systems — this week announced support for Google Pay, the primary digital wallet feature of Google's Android OS. The new capability allows students of participating colleges and universities to carry their student ID in their phone instead of a physical card. Students can simply tap their NFC-enabled phone on readers to access campus buildings, as well as payments for dining, laundry, vending, and retail. Apple Wallet has supported the Transact platform since late 2018, and additional student-ID systems since late 2019. Fifteen institutions have committed to the initial roll-out of Transact for Google Pay, including Arkansas State University, Chowan University, College of Coastal Georgia, Duke University, Georgetown University, Hamilton College, Johns Hopkins University, Marshall University, Mercer University, Roanoke College, St. Edward’s University, South Dakota State University, Temple University, The University of Alabama, and University of New Brunswick.
At CES this year, Google is showing off several new functions coming to Google Assistant on Android phones. Soon, you'll be able to say "Hey Google, read it" or "Hey Google, read this page" when you're viewing an article. When you do, it will use "new voice datasets to create more expressive and more natural sounding voices" for reading long-form content. The content can also be translated into 42 languages. Google is also adding two new voice actions for people to easily control their privacy. The first is "Hey Google, that wasn’t for you," which lets you tell the Assistant to forget what it heard if an unintended activation occurs. The other is "Hey Google, are you saving my audio data?" to learn about your privacy controls and go directly into the settings screen to change your preferences. Google added several other privacy-related commands recently, including "Hey Google, delete everything I said to you this week."
Amazon, Apple, and Google have joined forces on a new working group within the ZigBee Alliance to create a new, royalty-free connectivity standard to increase compatibility among smart home products. The new group, called Project Connected Home over IP, will take an open-source approach for the development and implementation of the new protocol, including a specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification. By basing the new standard on IP (internet protocol) technology, the need for proprietary smart home "hubs" should be reduced or eliminated, and proven security technologies can be used. The first version of the standard will be designed to work over three different radio types: Wi-Fi (up to and including Wi-Fi 6), Bluetooth LE 4.1-5.0, and 802.15.4 (using Google's Thread at 2.4 GHz). The first compatible devices may implement the new protocol over any one (or more than one) of the three radio types, in addition to existing smart home protocols. Rather than starting from scratch, the group intends to accelerate development by leveraging existing, market-tested technology contributed by the founding companies. Google will contribute its Weave and Thread technologies, both of which are used in its Nest products. Apple will contribute HomeKit, Amazon will contribute its Alexa Smart Home technology, and the Zigbee Alliance will contribute its Dotdot data models. Other participating companies include Samsung SmartThings, IKEA, Legrand, NXP Semiconductors, Somfy, Resideo, Schneider Electric, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), Silicon Labs, and Wulian. The Working Group has a goal to release a draft specification and a preliminary reference open source implementation in late 2020.
Google has added two major new features to its Messages app for Android phones: Verified SMS and spam protection. Verified SMS is a way for Google to confirm that SMS messages claiming to come from a participating business are, in fact, legitimate messages from that company. A special banner will appear at the top of such message threads to let the user know that the message is authentic. The feature should help combat phishing attacks involving fake security messages, for example. The US is among the launch countries. Businesses participating at launch include SoFi, Payback, Banco Bradesco, Kayak, and 1-800-Flowers. Spam protection works the opposite way, showing a warning banner on messages that Google suspects are spam, or that include links to web sites that Google knows to be unsafe. This features has been available in other countries, but is now rolling out "broadly" in the US. The spam banner includes options for confirming that a message is spam, or marking "not spam". Both new Messages features work without sending all of your messages to Google, keeping your messages private.
Incognito Mode is now available in Google Maps for iOS. In the Android version of Maps, a new bulk-delete features lets you delete all of your location history with Google, or any date range.
Google is rolling out a "feature drop" software update for its Pixel phones, which adds new and improved features to Pixel models going back to the Pixel 2. The Pixel 4 gains improved Call Screen; on-device intelligence will now detect robocalls and keep the phone from ringing at all. Other unknown callers will be screened as before. The Pixel 4 also gains improved Duo video calling. The phone will digitally track and frame your face automatically. It also uses machine learning to automatically fill in small audio gaps when the connection is spotty. A new Google Photos feature lets all Pixel users add portrait effects after a photo is taken, and Duo video calling gains a portrait effect as well. Google is also rolling out certain Pixel 4 features to certain older Pixels, including: Recorder app, Live Caption, Focus Mode, and Flip to Shhh. The update also improves memory management in all Pixel models, allowing more apps to stay open at the same time.
Google has added a new feature to Google Photos that make it easy to start a private photo and message thread with one or more contacts. When sharing a photo, the new choice lets you start a new thread or add to an existing one, making it easier to group a series of photos shared with one or more specific people. All participants can also add comments and likes, and download full-res photos.
Google has updated its Maps app with the ability to speak aloud the name and/or address of your destination in the local language when traveling abroad. The feature is designed to be used when hailing a taxi or asking a local for directions. The feature appears automatically when in a country where the local language doesn't match your device's language setting. A speaker icon appears next to the place name in each listing. Tapping it brings up a new box with the option to speak the place name in the local language, speak the address in the local language, or jump to Google Translate to continue a conversation with a local. The new feature will be rolling out this month on Android and iOS with support for 50 languages and more on the way.
Google today announced the US rollout of Google-operated RCS for its Messages app for Android, making RCS "broadly" available to Android users in the US by the end of the year. RCS is the new industry standard for messaging designed to replace SMS and MMS. It brings advanced features similar to iMessage, including the ability to send and receive high-resolution photos and videos, and see if people have received your messages. Although the Messages app has supported RCS for some time, it has relied on carrier support on a phone-by-phone basis, which has been slow to roll out. Google's new service announced today side-steps carrier infrastructure and gives Android users RCS without waiting for carrier support. Google launched a similar service in the UK, France, and Mexico earlier this year. Just three weeks ago, the top four US carriers announced a joint venture to accelerate the launch of carrier-run RCS in the US in 2020. It's unclear if these two efforts might conflict in the coming months, but Google says it is "committed to working with our partners, including carriers and device makers, to provide a consistent and interoperable experience for everyone on Android."
Google this week announced a new program to collaborate with other companies to screen apps for harmful code before they reach the Google Play Store, the app store for Android devices. The App Defense Alliance includes Google, ESET, Lookout, and Zimperium. "As part of this Alliance, we are integrating our Google Play Protect detection systems with each partner’s scanning engines. This will generate new app risk intelligence as apps are being queued to publish."
Google has added a rewards program called Google Play Points to the Android app store. The program is free to join and members earn points for everything they buy through Google Play, and even for downloading "featured" free apps and games. Points can be redeemed for Google Play purchases, in-app purchases and discounts, as well as donations to charity. The program has four tiers, with higher levels offering weekly prizes. The program is launching this week in the US, but has been available in Korea and Japan for a year.
Fitbit has agreed to be purchased by Google for $2.1 billion. Fitbit makes activity-tracking wearables, having sold more than 100 million devices, with 28 million current active users. Google has its own Wear OS smartwatch platform, which integrates with its Google Fit activity- and health-tracking service. Google said it sees "an opportunity to invest even more in Wear OS as well as introduce Made by Google wearable devices into the market." On privacy, Fitbit says "Fitbit will continue to put users in control of their data and will remain transparent about the data it collects and why. The company never sells personal information, and Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads." Fitbit also pledged to continue supporting both iOS and Android.
Google has stopped selling Daydream VR headsets and the new Pixel 4 phones won't support Daydream VR. The Daydream headset used a phone's display and processor to power a mid-range VR experience.
Google has unveiled the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, its new own-brand flagship Android phones. The phones have Motion Sense, which uses a tiny RADAR sensor to read mid-air hand gestures, and power advanced face recognition for phone security. Google claims its face unlock is the fastest on the market, and requires no screen touch at all. This technology was first developed as Google's Project Soli. The OLED display supports an auto-adjusting refresh rate, up to 90 Hz. The Pixel 4 also reacts to squeeze gestures. The Pixel 4 comes with Google Recorder, which includes real-time, on-device voice recognition and dictation that produces searchable transcripts. The camera includes both standard (12 megapixel, f/1.7, 77º) and telephoto (16 megapixel, 52º) lenses, as well as multi-frame hi-res digital zoom. The improved HDR+ now supports live preview and dual exposure controls for greater creative control. An AI-powered white balance feature recognizes scene elements to provide better color. The improved portrait function uses both cameras. The new night mode supports astrophotography with long exposures up to 4 minutes. The larger XL model has a 6.3-inch QHD+ display and 3,700 battery, while the smaller model has a 5.7-inch FHD+ display and 2,800 mAh battery. Both models have a Snapdragon 855 processor, 6 GB of RAM, 64 or 128 GB of storage, and 18W fast charging. The Pixel 4 will be available from all major US carriers on October 24th, with pre-orders available today. It will start at $799 ($899 for the XL) and come in Just Black, Clearly White, and Oh So Orange.
Google today previewed the new Pixel Buds, which are its first fully wireless Bluetooth earbuds. They feature built-in machine learning processing that powers Google Assistant, language translation, and other experiences to be announced. They have long-range Bluetooth that can reach up to the length of a football field. The design fits almost completely inside the ear, with a spatial vent that allows you to hear a limited amount of ambient sound at all times. Beam-forming mics allow you to be heard clearly on calls, and power an auto-volume feature. The new Pixel buds last 5 hours on their own, or 24 hours with the included charging case. They'll be available in the spring of 2020 for $179.
Going forward, all new phones shipping with Android 9 or 10 will come with the YouTube Music app. On Android 10 devices, it will be the only music app from Google to be pre-installed, replacing Google Play Music.