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Google Rolls Out Live Wallpapers Pulled from Old Google Photos

Yesterday, 12:53 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has rolled out a new feature of Google Photos that makes important old photos stored with the service available as a Live Wallpaper on many Android phones. When the new "Memories" Live Wallpaper is enabled, the phone's wallpaper will automatically change to show a rotating selection of old photos curated by Google's AI. The feature is available on Android phones with Google's Live Wallpaper feature and Google Photos 5.22 or later.


Google Adds Neighborhood Feed to Maps

Yesterday, 12:45 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has added a new blog-like "community feed" feature to Google Maps, which highlights "what’s happening in your area" and "makes it easier to discover things to do and places to go". It includes user-submitted photos, reviews, and posts from local experts, posts and updates from local businesses, and articles related to the area from major publishers. The feature is available in the Explore tab of the Google Maps app.


Stadia and GeForce Now Coming to iOS as Web Apps

Nov 19, 2020, 2:00 PM   by Rich Brome

Both Google and Nvidia today announced that they are bringing their respective cloud-based game-streaming services to Apple's iOS in the form of a Safari web app, following similar announcements from Microsoft and Amazon. Nvidia GeForce Now is available in beta form today. The beta version of Google Stadia for iOS will be available "in the coming weeks". Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming (formerly Project xCloud) will come to iOS next year. Amazon's Luna was the first game-streaming service to launch on iOS as a web app. Apple has made life difficult for game-streaming services by effectively banning each service from offering a native iOS app to access the whole service. Apple's App Store rules require that each game be approved and offered separately, which is generally not how game-streaming services work. Those rules do not apply to web apps that run within the browser, however.


Google Adding End-to-end Encryption to RCS in Messages

Nov 19, 2020, 1:40 PM   by Rich Brome

Google is starting to roll out end-to-end encryption (E2EE) for messages sent over RCS using the Google Messages app. The feature provides security and privacy by ensuring that messages cannot be intercepted and read in transit between phones, not even by Google or mobile carriers. Google is rolling out the feature in phases, starting this month with one-to-one messages (not group chats) sent between users who are both using the public beta version of Google's Messages app. Under those conditions, conversations are automatically upgraded to use E2EE. Separately, Google announced the expansion of its own RCS service (for carriers that do not yet support RCS) to all countries globally. RCS is an open industry standard for rich messaging similar to iMessage. Apple's iOS does not yet support RCS.


Google Pay Gains New Payment and Money Management Tools, Digital Bank Account

Nov 18, 2020, 1:32 PM   by Rich Brome

Google today launched a major revamp of its Google Pay app with a new interface and several major new features. Instead of a stack of cards and list of transactions, the new interface centers around the people and businesses you exchange money with, with a conversation-style interface for each person, group, and business. Threads for groups include a simple "split bill" tool. New built-in tools make it easier to order food at over 100,000 restaurants, buy gas at over 30,000 gas stations, and pay for parking in over 400 cities. Participating retailers can also offer cash-back rewards and discounts that automatically appear within the app. A new Insights tab lets you explore your finances and spending in several ways, including a new search feature. It can search not only Google Pay transactions, but also — with your permission — all of your bank accounts and credit cards, as well as receipts from both Gmail and your photos. For example, you can search for "food last month" and it will show all relevant transactions as well as a total dollar amount. The new Google Pay app is available now for both Android and iOS. Finally, Google also announced Plex, "a new mobile-first bank account". Plex includes checking and savings accounts with no monthly fees, overdraft charges or minimum balance requirements. You can choose which FDIC-backed financial institution backs your account, but the Plex interface is provided by Google, within the Google Pay app. It includes tools to help you set saving goals. 11 banks and credit unions have committed to participating in Plex, and a waitlist is now available for Plex accounts backed by Citi and Stanford Federal Credit Union. Plex is very similar to Samsung Money by SoFi, which launched in July.


Google Photos Phasing Out Unlimited Photo Storage

Nov 11, 2020, 3:25 PM   by Rich Brome

Google Photos will no longer offer unlimited free backup of new "High quality" content from non-Pixel phones starting June 1, 2021. Since launch, Google Photos — available for both iOS and Android — has been unique in offering this free lifetime service. Google's definition of "High quality" means compressed copies of photos up to 16 megapixel and videos up to 1080p resolution. "High quality" content uploaded to the service before the deadline will be grandfathered and kept in the cloud for free, for life, without counting against storage limits. But starting June 2021, all new "High quality" content will be treated the same as Original quality content, counting against the 15 GB total storage available with every free Google account, shared among all Google services. Users can buy more storage with a Google One subscription. The cheapest plan offers 100 GB for $2/month. All existing Google Pixel phones are exempt from this change, and will continue to enjoy free, unlimited High quality media storage. Google says the average user will still be able to store about three years of photos with a free account, but the company also launched a simple tool offering a personalized estimate. Google is also changing its storage policies across all services. Google may delete content for a particular account/service if the user is inactive or over the storage limit for two years. The company also says it will "notify you multiple times before we attempt to remove any content so you have ample opportunities to take action." Users can easily manage storage and delete old files to make space using the Google One app.


Google Adds VPN to High-End Google One Plans

Oct 29, 2020, 2:57 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has added a VPN feature to its Google One service at the 2 TB and higher levels, which start at $10/month or $100/year. The feature will roll out in the "coming weeks" for Android, and will come to other platforms including iOS in "coming months". Like any VPN, it offers extra security when using public Wi-Fi hotspots or any untrusted internet connection.


Google Duo Gains Screen Sharing

Oct 8, 2020, 1:46 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has added screen sharing to its Duo video-calling app.


Google Adds Sound Notifications to Android Accessibility Features

Oct 8, 2020, 1:44 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has added a helpful new feature to Android for anyone with hearing loss or simply wearing headphones. Sound Notifications provides push notifications for critical sounds around you, including baby sounds, water running, smoke and fire alarms, appliances beeping, dog barking, and door knocking. There's also a timeline that shows past detected noise events. The feature uses offline AI. Many Android phones already have this feature, but it can also be added by downloading both Live Transcribe and Sound Notifications from the Google Play app store.


Google Assistant Gains Customizable Actions Within Third-Party Apps

Oct 8, 2020, 1:34 PM   by Rich Brome

Google today launched third-party app integration for Google Assistant. This lets Android users perform specific actions within their favorite apps with a single "Hey Google..." command. For example, you can now say "Hey Google... new TikTok video", "send money with Venmo", "order Dunkin", "book a Lyft", "Tweet", "my friends' birthdays in Facebook", or "search cozy blankets on Etsy". Users can further customize the feature by adding their own shortcuts, such as "Hey Google, lace it" as a shortcut for "Hey Google, tighten my shoes with Nike Adapt". Users can explore and customize the new Shortcuts features by saying "Hey Google, show my shortcuts". The feature is available now on all Assistant-enabled Android phones.


Google Fi Launches 5G

Oct 8, 2020, 1:20 PM   by Rich Brome

Google Fi today launched 5G phones and 5G service, now that Google has launched its own 5G Pixel phones. Google Fi will include 5G service with all plans at no extra charge. They are offering the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G, as well as the Samsung Galaxy Note20, Note20 Ultra, S20, S20+, S20 Ultra, and A71 5G.


Google, Snapchat Take Stand Against Automatic "Beauty" Filters

Oct 5, 2020, 10:06 AM   by Rich Brome

Google and Snapchat have created new guidelines for face-retouching features in phone camera apps. Google conducted multiple studies and consulted experts, finding that retouched photos can "negatively impact mental wellbeing" and "quietly set a beauty standard that some people compare themselves against". The new guidelines state that face-retouching features should be off by default, stay off when turned off, provide clear indication when they are turned on, and avoid the term "beauty", using value-neutral terms and iconography instead. The two companies have committed to following these guidelines in their own products, and encourage other companies in the mobile industry to follow.


New York Launches COVID-19 Exposure Notifications

Oct 1, 2020, 1:49 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Oct 2, 2020, 11:45 AM

New York State has launched COVID Alert NY, its official app enabling the COVID-19 Exposure Notification system developed by Apple and Google. New York is the largest US state to date to launch an app using the system, and joins ten other states that have already launched similar apps: Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wyoming. New York's app supports the national key server that allows Exposure Notifications to work across state lines, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Exposure Notifications is an opt-in system that uses Bluetooth to track which phones come near which other phones, how closely, and for how long. When someone reports that they have tested positive for COVID-19, the service can alert other people that may have come into contact with that person, so they can get tested as well. The service does not track users' locations, and protects privacy by using randomly-generated, frequently-changed ID codes to keep everyone anonymous. The system is more effective the more people participate. New York's app is available now for Android and iOS. Several other states are working on similar apps they plan to launch soon, including California, Colorado, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, and Washington, DC. New York's app was developed by NearForm, which also developed Exposure Notification apps for New Jersey, Scotland, and Ireland.


Google Details 5G Pixels

Sep 30, 2020, 2:06 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Sep 30, 2020, 3:03 PM

Google today announced its 5G Pixel phones for 2020: the Pixel 5 and "Pixel 4a (5G)". The confusingly-named Pixel 4a (5G) actually has more in common with the Pixel 5 than with the Pixel 4a. Both have a large OLED display (6–6.2 inches) with HDR, large battery (roughly 4,000 mAh), the exact same high-quality camera arrays, Titan M security chip, and are powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G chip. The key differences are that the Pixel 5 has wireless (and reverse wireless) charging, water resistance, aluminum (vs. polycarbonate) body, and 8 GB RAM instead of 6. However only the Pixel 4a (5G) has a 3.5mm headset jack. The new Pixels include several new camera features. Night Sight in Portrait Mode lets you take portrait shots with blurred backgrounds even in very low light. Portrait Light lets you simulate a studio light and position it anywhere relative to your subject. That feature can also be applied to existing photos in Google Photos. Video mode now lets you choose from three different stabilization modes, including a new Cinematic Pan mode. The main camera is the same 12-megapixel sensor with f/1.7 aperture that Google has used in Pixel phones for the past year. The two new 5G models also have a 16-megapixel ultra-wide camera, a departure from the Pixel 4 which had a telephoto camera instead. A new Hold for Me feature lets you assign Google Assistant to monitor a call on hold and alert you when a person is on the line. Extreme Battery Saver lets you pick which apps are essential and shuts down everything else to prolong battery life up to two days. Hold for Me and Extreme Battery Saver will come older Pixel phones via software update. Google has also improved its Recorder app, which records audio while transcribing it to text, even offline. Now, you can crop and remove sections of audio by simply editing the text. The Pixel 5 will be available unlocked in mint or black starting October 15th for $699. Pre-orders are open now. It will also come to Verizon with mmWave 5G for the same price, at a later date. The Pixel 4a (5G) will be available unlocked in November for $499, in black or white. Verizon will sell a version with mmWave 5G for $600, and will start taking pre-orders for that version October 29th.


New Coalition Will Fight for Better App Store Policies

Sep 24, 2020, 9:10 AM   by Rich Brome

A new alliance of app developers have come together to form the Coalition for App Fairness. The new organization will pressure Apple and Google to change their app-store policies and commission rates to be more favorable to developers. The group includes Epic Games (developers of Fortnite), Spotify, Basecamp, and the developers of Tinder and ProtonMail. The group claims that Apple and Google collect excessive commissions and give unfair advantages to their own products and services. One specific demand is the ability to use third-party payment services for certain transactions. The nonprofit group is registered in Washington, DC and plans to push for legal and regulatory changes governing how the companies operate app stores.


Android Go Updated to be More Efficient on More Devices

Sep 10, 2020, 2:34 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has announced the Android 11 version of Android Go, the special edition of Android tailored for the most affordable devices with limited memory specs. While previous versions of Android Go were targeted at phones with just 1 GB of RAM, Android 11 (Go edition) will also be made available to phones with up to 2 GB of RAM. This change accommodates features such as fingerprint readers and dual cameras, which are increasingly common on entry-level phones, and require extra RAM. In version 11, apps now launch 20% faster. Google also continues to shave down the RAM and storage required by the OS itself, making available 270 MB more RAM for apps, and 900 MB additional free storage space. The new OS includes many of the key features of standard Android 11, including new privacy controls and a dedicated notification area for conversations. Android 11 (Go edition) will be available starting next month.


Android 11 is Here

Sep 8, 2020, 1:27 PM   by Rich Brome

Google is launching Android 11 today, having completed the beta period. The new OS will begin rolling out today on select Pixel and OnePlus phones, with more partners launching and upgrading devices over the coming months. Key features of Android 11 include:

  • New treatment for "conversation"-related notifications from messaging apps, including a dedicated area in the Notifications shade, and Bubbles, which lets you briefly view a conversation thread as a pop-up overlay, without leaving the app you're in.
  • Privacy improvements, including the ability to grant apps one-time access to sensitive permissions, an "auto-reset" of permissions for apps that haven't been used in a while, and an extra steps required to enable background access to location. Google will also start requiring that developers obtain explicit permission from Google before their app is allowed to ask for background access to location.
  • A revamped screen when the lock button is pressed provides quick access to smart-home device controls.
  • Support for digital IDs, including digital driver's licenses.
  • Support for wireless Android Auto on all phones.
  • New media controls that make it easier to switch output device.
  • New screenshot tools, including built-in screen recording on all phones. On Pixel phones, Android 11 brings a new feature when taking a screenshot that lets you easily copy an image or text to the clipboard instead.
  • For phones linked to a company network, the personal/work Profiles features has several improvements. New Personal/Work tabs have been added to several places including the Share pop-up sheet. A new API available to apps will allow certain apps to present both work and personal data together, while protecting both company data and employee privacy. Google Calendar will support this feature, and third-party apps will be able to support it as well.
  • New APIs allowing apps to better support new display technologies, including "waterfall" displays that wrap around the side, and variable refresh rates.
Further, on Google Pixel phones, Android 11 brings a new feature called Live View with Location Sharing. When someone sends you their location, the feature uses AR to show you exactly where that person is in the real world, how far away they are, and can guide you to them, even in parks or the wilderness.


Google Bringing its Phone app to More Android Phones

Sep 8, 2020, 11:09 AM   by Rich Brome

Google is making its own Phone app available to "even more Android devices" starting this week. Google's Phone app offers Google's unique Verified Calls feature, which shows the caller’s name, logo, reason for calling and a verification symbol indicating the business has been authenticated by Google for incoming calls from participating businesses. The Google Phone app comes pre-loaded on Pixel and select other Android phones, but many manufacturers pre-load their own Phone app on their phones. Google's app hasn't been made available to most such phones before now.


Apple, Google Launch Simpler COVID-19 Exposure Notifications

Sep 1, 2020, 11:31 AM   by Rich Brome

Google and Apple are updating their COVID-19 Exposure Notification system to support US states that have yet to develop their own Exposure Notification app. While the initial release of Exposure Notifications required countries or states to release their own app supporting the system, the new Exposure Notifications Express removes that requirement. States must still opt in to the system, but once they do, most iOS and Android phones in that state will receive a push notification inviting them to opt in to the system. On iOS, opting in will activate the new Exposure Notifications Express feature built in to the just-released iOS 13.7. Android users opting in will be prompted to download an app from Google to enable the feature. As with all variants of Exposure Notifications, privacy is protected since personal-identifying and location data is neither collected nor sent to states. Instead, randomly-generated ID numbers are exchanged with nearby phones via short-range Bluetooth, to keep track of which phones are near which other phones, and for how long. When someone enrolled in the system self-reports that they have tested positive for COVID-19, others enrolled in the system that have been near that person are notified, so they can seek testing. Maryland, Nevada, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. have already announced that they will participate, while six states have already released their own apps to enable Exposure Notifications.


Google Pixel Buds Gain New Safety, Translation Smarts

Aug 20, 2020, 11:14 AM   by Rich Brome

Google today released a new "feature drop" update for its Pixel Buds true wireless earbuds, adding a number of new features. With the new Attention Alerts feature, the Buds will now actively listen for specific outside sounds that may be important — such as dog barks, baby cries, and emergency vehicle sirens — and automatically lower the volume so you can safely remain aware of your surroundings. A new "transcribe" mode for language translation will continuously translate from one language to another and speak the translation into your ears. This one-way mode is ideal for understanding lectures or tour guides, unlike the existing "conversation mode" for back-and-forth interaction. Transcribe mode is initially available for translating English into Spanish, French, German, and Italian. Another new feature gives each Bud individual volume controls when sharing one bud with another person. Google has also added a new Bass Boost option. Finally, the Find My Device function can now display the last known location of your Pixel Buds on a map. Pixel Buds are available from Google for $179.


Fortnite's Biggest Battle Yet: App Stores

Aug 13, 2020, 3:37 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Aug 14, 2020, 10:04 AM

Epic Games, the maker of popular battle royale game Fortnite, has filed suit against Apple and Google for anti-competitive and monopolistic behavior related to their app store policies. Epic is challenging the companies' monopolies on both app purchases and in-app purchases on their respective mobile platforms, and their 30% cut of such purchases. Instead of monetary damages, Epic is asking the courts to force the companies to change their policies. In apparent preparation for the suit, this morning Epic started offering a discount for players who purchased in-app content directly from Epic, instead of via the standard in-app purchase systems provided on iOS and Android, in violation of Apple and Google's policies. Apple quickly responded by pulling Fortnite from the App Store. Google pulled Fortnite from its Play Store hours later. Epic initially resisted listing Fortnite in Google's Play Store in protest of these policies, before relenting this April. Fortnite can still be installed on Android phones by working around the Play Store, but it can no longer be installed on iOS devices. Existing installations on both platforms still function for now.


Google Improves Lookout, its App for Blind and Low-Vision People

Aug 11, 2020, 10:48 AM   by Rich Brome

Google has added several major features to Lookout, its app that uses computer vision to help people who are blind or low-vision. The new features include the ability to scan longer documents into readable text, identify food products from their labels, and automatic flash. The updated Lookout app is available now for Android 6+ devices with over 2 GB of RAM.


Google Adds Bedtime Features to its Clock App

Aug 11, 2020, 10:43 AM   by Rich Brome

Google has updated its own Clock app with a Bedtime tab to help users maintain a consistent sleep schedule. The feature initially debuted on Pixel phones, but is now available for all Android (version 6+) phones. The new tab includes the ability to track your screen time at night, fall asleep to a variety of soothing sounds, and wake up more gently with visual cues from the Sunrise Alarm and your favorite sounds or song. It works in concert with the Bedtime features built into the Android OS, which remind you when it's time for bed and limit interruptions by keeping your phone dark and quiet while you sleep.


Google Turning Android Phones Into Earthquake Detection Network

Aug 11, 2020, 10:30 AM   by Rich Brome

Google is launching two new earthquake-related features on Android today. First, Google is enabling Android phones in California to receive alerts from the state's ShakeAlert early-detection network. In many cases, the notifications can give users a few seconds of warning before an earthquake, enough time to find cover. Second, Google has launched its own earthquake-detection system that uses the accelerometers in Android phones. Starting today, if "the phone detects something that it thinks may be an earthquake, it sends a signal to our earthquake detection server, along with a coarse location of where the shaking occurred. The server then combines information from many phones to figure out if an earthquake is happening." Eventually, Google plans to use this new data to power a notification system like the one in California. But initially, the system will only feed Google search results for searches such as "earthquake" or "earthquake near me".


Google Bringing Calendar, New App Categories to Android Auto

Aug 11, 2020, 10:06 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Aug 11, 2020, 10:14 AM

Google has added a Calendar app to Android Auto, and is working to allow navigation, parking, and EV charging apps from third-party developers. The Calendar app makes it easy to get driving directions to locations saved in calendar events, and call phone numbers saved with events. The company has also added a new Settings app to Android Auto. For the additional categories, Google is working with developers such as ChargePoint, SpotHero and Sygic to launch beta apps by the end of this year. The move follows Apple's announcement in June that it will allow parking, EV charging, and fast food ordering apps in CarPlay with the launch of iOS 14.


Nearby Share, Google's Answer to AirDrop, Comes to Android

Aug 4, 2020, 12:03 PM   by Rich Brome

Google today announced Nearby Share, a new feature being added to Android 6 and newer that makes it easier to share files with other Android devices nearby. There are controls over visibility to prevent unwanted file transfer requests, and each transfer can be accepted or declined. The feature automatically selects the best technology to execute the transfer quickly, utilizing Bluetooth, Bluetooth LE, WebRTC, or peer-to-peer Wi-Fi. Google Pixel and certain Samsung phones will receive the feature starting today. Google "will continue to work with our partners to bring Nearby Share to more smartphones in the Android ecosystem over the next few weeks."


Google Adds Live Captioning to Calls on Pixel

Aug 3, 2020, 2:02 PM   by Rich Brome

Google is updating the software on Pixel phones (Pixel 2 and newer) to enable its Live Caption feature to work during voice and video calls.


Google Reveals Pixel 4a; 5G Pixels Coming This Fall

Aug 3, 2020, 11:44 AM   by Rich Brome

The newest affordable Pixel phone from Google is the Pixel 4a, which starts at $349, making it the most affordable Pixel phone ever. (The Pixel 3a started at $399 at launch.) A 5G version will also be available this fall starting at $499. The Pixel 4a is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G chip paired with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. The 4a is a relatively small phone, with a 5.8-inch OLED display that covers the front. A small hole punch in the corner accommodates the 8 megapixel selfie camera. The single rear camera is 12 megapixel with dual-pixel focusing. The phone comes with an 18W USB-PD fast charger for its 3,140 mAh battery. It also has a fingerprint reader on the back, headphone jack up top, stereo speakers, and NFC. It does not have water resistance nor wireless charging. It will be available in black (only) starting August 20th from Google, Best Buy, Amazon, Google Fi, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon. Pre-orders from Google and Google Fi start today. Google also revealed that a 5G-enabled Pixel 5 will be announced in the "coming months" and be available this fall, but said little else about it.


Google, Apple Tweak COVID-19 Exposure Notifications to be More Useful

Jul 31, 2020, 2:14 PM   by Rich Brome

Google today provided an update on the quickly-evolving Exposure Notifications System (ENS) they developed and launched in partnership with Apple to augment pandemic contact tracing efforts. The system now supports interoperability between countries and states, including a "national key server" run by the Association of Public Health Laboratories to allow the system to work across the 20 US states and territories using ENS with their own official public health apps. Also, "Bluetooth calibration values for hundreds of devices have been updated to improve the detection of nearby devices". As always, ENS is completely anonymous, does not track your location, and is opt-in. Google also explained the technical reasons users may be asked to turn on "location services" to use ENS, even though ENS does not us location data and ENS apps are prohibited from collecting location data. At a system level, in Android 10 and earlier, permission for an app to use Bluetooth is linked to "location services" because the app may connect to Bluetooth beacons, which are intended to mark locations. But ENS apps are prohibited from gathering this data. In Android 11, ENS apps will be given an exemption that allows the location services setting to remain off, since those apps cannot collect such data.


Google Offers New Free Backup Options for iOS and Android

Jul 30, 2020, 8:54 AM   by Rich Brome

Google has sweetened its Google One service to offer full, automatic phone backup for free for all Android phones. (Full automatic phone backup previously required a paid subscription.) The company is also launching a Google One app for iOS, which will offer a free backup service and storage manager for that platform. On iOS, Google One will be able to back up photos, videos, contacts, and calendar events. The Google One service on both platforms uses the 15 GB of storage that comes free with all Google accounts. Google One will continue to offer paid subscriptions that offer more storage and enhanced support.


Google Messages Adds Reactions

Jul 22, 2020, 2:14 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jul 22, 2020, 2:14 PM

Google has updated Messages — its own standards-based rich messaging app for Android — to support emoji-like message reactions, similar to the reactions features in iMessage and Facebook. Available reactions are: like, love, laughter, surprise, sadness, anger, and dislike. The feature only works in "conversations with chat features enabled", referring to message threads using rich messaging (RCS) instead of standard text messaging SMS. Google and some US carriers have been increasingly supporting RCS on new Android phones in the past couple of years.


Google's Phone App can Tell You Why a Company is Calling Before You Pick Up

Jun 26, 2020, 11:44 AM   by Rich Brome

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.


Google Photos Adds Map View

Jun 25, 2020, 12:05 PM   by Rich Brome

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.


Google Releases Public Beta of Android 11

Jun 10, 2020, 1:34 PM   by Rich Brome

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.


New Safety Check Feature Comes to Pixel Phones

Jun 2, 2020, 9:54 AM   by Rich Brome

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 Launch COVID-19 Exposure Notification

May 20, 2020, 1:31 PM   by Rich Brome

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 Lens Can Now Copy-and-Paste Handwritten Notes to Your Computer

May 7, 2020, 11:05 AM   by Rich Brome

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, Google Lay Ground Rules for COVID-19 Exposure Notification Apps

May 6, 2020, 9:00 AM   by Rich Brome

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.


Smartphone Contact Tracing Tech to be Released Ahead of Schedule

Apr 23, 2020, 10:20 AM   by Rich Brome

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.


Fortnite Goes Legit on Android with Play Store Listing

Apr 21, 2020, 9:52 PM   by Rich Brome

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%.


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