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Google Maps Gains Bluetooth Auracast Info

May 16, 2024, 3:47 PM   by Rich Brome

Google is adding an indicator for Bluetooth Auracast to Maps listings. Now places like theaters, gyms, places of worship, and auditoriums will be able to advertise that they offer Bluetooth Auracast wireless broadcast audio. Auracast is for everyone, but is particularly useful for those in need of hearing assistance, as it works directly with newer Bluetooth hearing aids. Businesses must update their own profile in Maps to add this information.

Google Turbo-Charges Anti-Theft Features in Android

May 15, 2024, 1:27 PM   by Rich Brome

Google is adding a lengthy list of new features to Android intended to protect against phone theft in various ways. Three new features help lock your screen if it was stolen while unlocked:

  • First, AI will monitor sensors for motion associated with theft, such as the phone being snatched from a hand and quickly moving away. The screen will automatically lock.
  • Separately, Offline Device Lock looks for extended periods of network disconnection, which thieves sometimes use to prevent remote locking/wiping. This will automatically lock the screen.
  • Another feature allows you to manually lock your screen remotely, from any device, even if you've forgotten your Google account password. (It uses your phone number and a security question.)
All three screen-lock features will come to phones with Android version 10 and newer, via an update later this year. Android 15 will bring additional protections:
  • After a factory reset, a device can only be set up anew after providing device or Google account credentials from before the reset. (This is intended to deter thieves who try to resell stolen phones.)
  • Private Space lets you put banking and other sensitive apps behind a lock that requires its own separate PIN.
  • Since thieves often start by trying to disable Find My Device or extend the screen timeout, these settings now require authentication.
  • Finally, copying a feature recently implemented by Apple in iOS, an optional "enhanced authentication" setting requires biometric authentication (not PIN) "for accessing and changing critical Google account and device settings, like changing your PIN, disabling theft protection or accessing Passkeys, from an untrusted location."

Google Shows Off New AI in Android

May 14, 2024, 1:34 PM   by Rich Brome

Today at its annual I/O developer's conference, Google unveiled new AI features across its platforms and apps. In the Gmail mobile app, a new feature will let you summarize an email or thread with one tap. A Q&A feature will let you search your emails using AI prompts with structured results. Finally, Contextual Smart Reply suggests one-tap options for complete reply emails based on the context of past emails. The Gemini AI chatbot app will soon gain a "Live" feature that lets you have a real-time voice conversation with Google's Gemini AI model. Later in the year, this will be enhanced to take both video and voice as real-time inputs. Google is also making Gemini available as a floating pop-up window that can take whatever is on the screen as an input, much like Circle To Search, which is also gaining smarter AI-powered results. An experimental new feature has private, on-device AI (Gemini Nano) listening to your phone calls so it can intervene if it detects a malicious scam call.

Google Pixel 8a is a Modest Update to the 7a

May 7, 2024, 11:58 AM   by Rich Brome   updated May 7, 2024, 12:32 PM

Google has announced the Pixel 8a, this year's more-affordable Pixel model. It offers several small hardware improvements over last year's 7a, and new AI software features, but is otherwise quite similar to the 7a. The design has more rounded corners. The "Actua" display is 40% brighter and the refresh rate gets a bump from 90 to 120 Hz. There's also a new 256 GB storage option. An upgrade from a Google Tensor G2 processor to the newer G3 chip enables new software features like Best Take for group photos, Magic Editor for photos, and Audio Magic Eraser for video. Circle To Search is also available, and Gemeni AI can summarize emails. Pixel 8a also makes official the controversial Audio Emoji feature revealed last week. The battery is also slightly larger at 4,492 mAh vs. 4,385 mAh. Other features and specs remain the same as the 7a, including FHD+ display, 64 megapixel main camera, 13 megapixel wide camera, 8 GB RAM, storage starting at 128 GB, IP67 water resistance, 5G, Wi-Fi 6E, 18W fast charging, and wireless charging. The launch price is also unchanged at $499. As before, a version with mmWave 5G is available for Verizon but priced a little higher, at $550. The Google Pixel 8a is available for pre-order today, shipping May 14th. It's available in four colors at launch: Porcelain (off-white), Obsidian (black), Bay (blue), and a limited-edition Aloe (mint green).

Google Adding Sound Effects to Android Phone App

May 2, 2024, 11:04 AM   by Rich Brome

The newest beta version of Google's Phone app for Android includes "Audio Emoji", which are buttons that play a sound effect that both parties can hear. They include clapping, laughing, crying, party, drums, and ... poop, which makes a farting sound. The beta test suggests that the feature could roll out to all users in the coming weeks.

Google Discontinues VPN in Google One

Apr 12, 2024, 10:32 AM   by Rich Brome

Google will no longer include a VPN service with its Google One subscription service bundle. Google told 9to5Google that the feature is being discontinued because "people simply weren’t using it." Google first introduced the feature for top-end plans in late 2020, then brought it to all plans just over one year ago. Google still offers a VPN service for owners of recent Pixel phones, and for Google Fi customers.

AI Tools Coming to All Google Photos Users

Apr 11, 2024, 10:34 AM   by Rich Brome

Google is bringing some of its newest AI-powered photo-editing tools to nearly all Google Photos users, after first introducing the features as exclusive to its Pixel 8 series of phones. Features like Magic Editor, Photo Unblur, Magic Eraser, and Portrait Light will be available to everyone — even on iOS — starting May 15th. The most powerful and demanding tool, Magic Editor, will be limited to 10 edits per month unless users also subscribe to the "Premium" Google One plan that runs $100/year. Magic Editor uses generative AI to make it easy to do complex photo edits "like repositioning your subject or turning the sky from gray to blue."

Google Launches New "Find My Device" Network

Apr 8, 2024, 11:44 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Apr 9, 2024, 12:10 PM

Google has launched its new Find My Device app and service, which mimics the capabilities of Apple's Find My app and service, and works in a similar way. Both systems tap into the Bluetooth functions of billions of smartphones and other devices worldwide to help find lost devices and items via automatic crowdsourcing. Location data is aggregated and encrypted to ensure anonymity and privacy. Google's system can be used to locate Android devices starting today, and new Bluetooth tracker tags starting in May. Unlike Google's existing phone-finding system, the new system can find lost devices even when they're offline, and can even find a Pixel 8 or 8 Pro when it's off or the battery is dead. The system provides long-range tracking by showing location on a map, as well as a short-range "Find nearby" mode that shows when you're getting closer to the lost device as you walk around. It can also tap into a Nest smart-home and show to which Nest device the lost item is nearest. The app also lets you share permission to track a device with other people. The new Bluetooth tracker tags will be available from Chipolo, Pebblebee, eufy, Jio, Motorola, and more. The tags will be fully compatible with the new cross-platform unwanted tracking protections developed by Apple and Google. iOS 17.5 brings new support for this standard, ensuring that Apple phone users are protected from stalking via tracking tags using Google's ecosystem, and vice-versa.

Google Relents on Odd Pixel 8 AI Limitations

Mar 28, 2024, 9:52 AM   by Rich Brome

When Google first announced the Pixel 8 series, certain AI-powered features were limited to the Pixel 8 Pro, even though both the 8 and 8 Pro are powered by the same Tensor G3 chip. This seemingly arbitrary limitation created some backlash. Google has now changed its mind and will bring those AI-powered features to the cheaper Pixel 8 after all with a software update. The reversal calls into question Google's original excuse of "hardware limitations". The new features coming to the Pixel 8 include summaries of speech recordings and "smart replies" in Google's on-screen keyboard software.

Google and Apple Announce Next Big Keynote Events

Mar 26, 2024, 5:50 PM   by Rich Brome

Google and Apple both have big annual developer events coming up in the next few months. As usual, each will kick off with a major livestreamed keynote. Major new software is typically revealed at these events, including for smartphones. First up is Google I/O, which kicks off on May 14th at 10am Pacific. Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) follows on June 10th.

Google Schedules I/O 2024 for May 14th

Mar 14, 2024, 3:42 PM   by Rich Brome

Google's big annual developer event "will be broadcast in front of a small live audience and is open to everyone online" on May 14th this year. Google often announces new products and features at this annual event. At last year's event, the company announced the Pixel Fold and Pixel 7a. It also announced new features coming to Android and Wear OS.

Google Links Gmail with Wallet for Boarding Passes, Movie Tickets

Mar 11, 2024, 3:56 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has created a new link between Gmail and Wallet to automate airline boarding passes and movie tickets. When these types of passes are detected in an email received in Gmail, Google will attempt to automatically add them to the user's Wallet on their phone. Google already has this type of automation between Gmail and Google Calendar. Google says this "integration is live for some global movie chains and airlines and we are working to expand this." Google is also making it easier to "archive" old passes, a function that was previously labeled "Expired Passes".

Google Brings Wallet Passes, Transit Directions to Wear OS

Feb 26, 2024, 10:41 AM   by Rich Brome

Google has finally updated Wallet on Wear OS to more closely match the functionality of Wallet on Android, supporting all types of cards, passes, and tickets. Wallet for Wear OS previously only supported credit and debit cards. Now it will support "boarding passes, event tickets, gym memberships, loyalty cards and more". For people who have many such cards, some can be hidden, so that the ones you use most often can be accessed without excessive swiping. Wear OS also now supports transit directions, including trip by bus, train, or ferry. "Look up departure times right from your smartwatch, then get compass-guided navigation directions to your destination."

Google Brings AI to Messaging in Android

Feb 26, 2024, 10:12 AM   by Rich Brome

Google today announced two major new AI features for messaging in Android. The first is in Android Auto, where AI will now automatically summarize long texts or busy group chats while driving. It will also "suggest relevant replies and actions you can take with a single tap – helping you navigate to an address, make a call, or share your ETA when someone asks for it." This feature is rolling out starting today. Separately, the Messages app for Android now lets you Chat with Gemini, where you can have a conversation with Google's new AI chatbot as if it were a person in your contacts. You can even send it photos as part of your conversation. The feature includes thumbs-up and thumbs-down feedback buttons to help Google improve Gemini, and a "Report legal issue" button. This feature is only available to users enrolled in the messages beta channel and only to adults 18 and older. For now it only supports English, and French in Canada.

Google Starts Android 15 Testing Campaign

Feb 16, 2024, 3:11 PM   by Rich Brome

The very first release of Android 15 is now available for developers to test. This is a developer preview, not a public beta version, so it may lack some user-facing features and shouldn't be installed on anyone's primary device. Google says some of the improvements in Android 15 include partial screen sharing and recording, better camera controls in third-party apps, and better APIs for managing processor efficiency. Google plans to release the first beta version in April, with platform stability in June and a final release some time after July.

Pixel 8 Phones Gain Circle to Search, Thermometer, and new Mint Color

Jan 25, 2024, 1:20 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 25, 2024, 4:31 PM

Google is rolling out a new "Feature Drop" software update for its Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro phones. It adds the new Circle to Search feature that was initially announced for the new Samsung Galaxy S24 series. It also activates the body temperature sensor in the Pixel 8 Pro. The Thermometer app lets you point your phone at your forehead to take your temp, and results can be saved to your Fitbit profile. Google is also introducing a new Mint green color option for the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. Circle to Search lets you circle, highlight, scribble, or tap to Google search anything on your screen, in any app, including images. Android phones already offer this feature in the app switcher, but this makes the feature easier to use. Finally, the update also includes the tweaked Quick Share function that replaces Nearby Share. Circle to Search launches January 31st, the same day the Galaxy S24 series goes on sale. Some other features are launching today, while some will roll out over the next few weeks.

AT&T and Google Invest in Space-Based Cell Service

Jan 23, 2024, 12:44 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 23, 2024, 2:09 PM

AST SpaceMobile — the company currently testing space-based cellular service for AT&T — has secured a vote of confidence in the form of $206.5 million in new financing from AT&T, Google, and Vodafone. AT&T and Google are new investors. As part of the deal, AT&T has agreed to purchase network equipment from AST to support planned commercial service, and made a $20 million revenue commitment. Google has "agreed to collaborate on product development, testing and implementation plans for SpaceMobile network connectivity on Android and related devices". AST's technology works with existing, off-the-shelf 4G and 5G phones. In that sense, it's similar to the service that SpaceX and T-Mobile are currently testing. Both systems rely on new satellites being launched into earth orbit with massive antennas that can mimic land-based cellular base stations. These services are intended only to provide coverage in "dead zones" not covered by land-based networks.

Google Maps Gains Tunnel Navigation

Jan 18, 2024, 12:07 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has quietly added optional support for Bluetooth beacons to its Google Maps app for Android. This feature lets the app know its location in tunnels, where GPS signals don't reach. Google's Waze subsidiary has already deployed these beacons in tunnels in cities including New York City, Chicago, and Boston. The feature is still off by default; users must go into the app settings and enable "Bluetooth tunnel beacons" under "Navigation settings" to enable the feature. The iOS version of the app does not yet offer this option.

Google Pares Back Assistant

Jan 16, 2024, 8:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Google is trimming back both the availability and functionality of Google Assistant. In both the Google app and the home-screen search bar on Pixel phones, the microphone icon will now perform a voice web search only, instead of allowing Assistant features as before. Google says web search is already the most popular use case with this icon. Assistant will still be available by long-pressing the lock/power button or by saying "Hey Google". Google is also removing a long list of "underutilized features" from Assistant. These include rescheduling an event in Google Calendar, sending an email or audio message, checking travel itineraries, making reservations, sending payments, posting to social media, and accessing or managing your cookbook.

Nearby Share Becomes Quick Share

Jan 9, 2024, 4:49 PM   by Rich Brome

Google and Samsung have collaborated to merge their similar Nearby Share and Quick Share features into a single new standard called Quick Share. "Quick Share will start rolling out to current Nearby Share enabled devices next month."

Android Auto Will Know Your EV's Battery Level

Jan 9, 2024, 4:46 PM   by Rich Brome

Google today announced a major new feature of Android Auto: the ability for electric vehicles to share real-time battery information with Google Maps running on your phone. With this update, Google Maps will be able to "provide your estimated battery level upon arrival at your destination, suggest charging stops along the way and even estimate how long charging will take based on your vehicle." Many EV owners previously had to use the built-in navigation system instead of Android Auto to access such features. EVs must be specifically designed to support the feature. The first vehicles to support it will be the Ford Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lightning "in the coming months, with others to follow."

Google Will Relax App Billing Rules, Pay $700 Million in Antitrust Settlement

Dec 19, 2023, 1:02 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Dec 19, 2023, 1:07 PM

Google has reached a settlement with 36 states and the District of Columbia in case alleging that Google operated its Play app store as an illegal monopoly. Google has agreed to let developers use alternative billing systems in the US, and "[simplify] the sideloading process". In addition, the company will pay $630 million into "a settlement fund to be distributed for the benefit of consumers", plus $70 million to the states that filed the suit. The case was led by the Utah Attorney General. The case was filed in 2021 and the settlement agreed to in September, but details were announced just this week. This case is separate from a private antitrust case filed by Epic Games, where a jury recently ruled against Google.

Apple and Google Launch Phone Diagnostic Tools

Dec 15, 2023, 12:45 PM   by Rich Brome

Within days of each other, Apple and Google have both announced new diagnostic software that allow users to troubleshoot common issues with their own iPhones or Pixel phones. The new Apple Diagnostics for Self Service Repair tool starts with a web site where users enter their device's serial number. On Google Pixel phones, a Pixel Diagnostic App can be accessed by entering a special code (*#*#7287#*#*) in the Phone app. The tool is already available on all Pixel phones, but Google now seems to be supporting consumer use of a tool previously intended only for qualified technicians. Both Apple and Google have relatively new programs that enable technical-minded consumers to order parts and tools, and repair their own phones. These new software tools should help users diagnose issues, identify the correct parts to order, and verify repairs.

Google Making Maps Location History Private, Even from Police

Dec 15, 2023, 11:38 AM   by Rich Brome

Google is changing how Maps stores your location history, moving it on-device by default and encrypting it when saved to the cloud. This change means even Google can't access that data, which also means Google will no longer be able to respond to "geo-fence" warrants from police wanting to know who was in a given area at a given time. Other companies — notably, mobile network operators — may still have customer location data that can be compelled by police, but Google Maps will no longer be a source of this information. Maps already offers a variety of options giving users control over their location data in its Timeline feature. Users can delete all history and set an auto-delete time period. Timeline is off by default, and when activated, now defaults to keeping only three months of data instead of 18. A new feature will let users delete data for specific locations. Users will be able to manually upload an encrypted copy of their location history to the cloud to preserve that data when switching devices; but otherwise it will stay on-device. The changes will apply to both Android and iOS versions of Maps. Users will see a notice in the app when the change reaches their account.

Google Adds Repair Mode to Pixel Phones

Dec 14, 2023, 11:40 AM   by Rich Brome

The new Repair Mode protects your private data while giving repair technicians the access they need to diagnose and test your phone. Samsung announced a similar feature for its phones a year ago.

Jury Finds Google Violates Antitrust Laws with Play Store Rules

Dec 12, 2023, 11:21 AM   by Rich Brome

A jury in San Francisco has sided with Epic Games in the drawn-out legal battle the company is fighting against Google's app store restrictions. The jury found that Google had maintained a monopoly in the smartphone app store market and engaged in anticompetitive conduct. Google requires that in-app purchases be made via its Play Store, where it takes a cut of up to 30%. This ongoing legal saga began when Epic tried to direct Fortnite players to an alternate payment platform for in-app purchases. Google also makes it difficult to offer competing app stores on Android. A judge will determine remedies early next year, although Google has already indicated it will appeal, a process that could take up to 18 months. Epic's case going forward is strengthened by the jury's resounding verdict that found against Google on all 11 questions of the case. If Epic eventually prevails, Google could be forced to alter its rules for the Play Store, for Google services required on new Android phones, and for alternate app stores. Epic is pursuing a similar case against Apple. Apple prevailed in the first trial, but that case is also being appealed.

Google Upgrades the AI in the Pixel 8 Pro

Dec 6, 2023, 11:54 AM   by Rich Brome

Google is rolling out the promised December Feature Drop for its Pixel devices. On the Pixel 8 Pro, this includes replacing the AI model for some features with Google's brand-new Gemini Nano on-device AI model. Gemini is Google's new AI model designed to compete with models like ChatGPT. It's a multi-modal model, meaning it can work with text, voice, images, video, and code. Google claims it performs better than other models based on multiple benchmarks. There are several different versions of Gemini, with Gemini Nano being the version designed to run on devices like smartphones. With this December update, Gemini Nano will power the Summarize feature in the Recorder app on Pixel 8 Pro. It will also power Smart Reply in the Gboard keyboard, although this will be available in a phased rollout, initially available only when using WhatsApp. The December Feature Drop also includes a long list of other features first announced when the Pixel 8 series launched.

Governments Demand, Receive Push Notification Data from Apple, Google

Dec 6, 2023, 11:38 AM   by Rich Brome

A US Senator has written a public letter bringing to light the practice of governments demanding smartphones' push notification records from Apple and Google, and receiving that information. The US government has prevented Apple and Google from disclosing this practice, but Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon is asking the Department of Justice to allow Apple and Google to disclose information about this to their customers. Already, in response to the letter, Apple has acknowledged the practice and pledged to include information about it in its next transparency report. On both iPhones and Android phones, app push notifications are routed via Apple or Google servers.

Google Improves Accessibility with AI-Generated Image Descriptions

Nov 30, 2023, 3:23 PM   by Rich Brome

Google's TalkBack accessibility tools in Android now use AI to create text descriptions of images for low-vision users. The feature works with camera photos, images from apps, social media, and messaging.

Google Adds Profiles, Animations, and Color Choices to Messages

Nov 30, 2023, 3:20 PM   by Rich Brome

Google is rolling out a set of major new features for its RCS-based Messages app for Android. A new Profiles feature lets you attach your name and photo to your phone number, so that info can optionally, automatically appear in group chats, even on friends' Android phones that don't yet have you saved as a contact. The feature is somewhat similar to the Contact Poster feature that Apple recently introduced in iOS. "Photomoji" lets you create your own totally custom reaction emoji by quickly cutting out a person or animal from one of your own photos. Custom Bubbles lets you customize the bubble and background colors for each chat. Google has also improved the quality of voice messages with better bitrate and sampling rate. Finally, a variety of other features add new animations to emoji, reactions, voice messages, and full-screen effects when certain phrases are used in text. The new features are available in the public beta version of Messages starting today.

Google Paid Samsung $8 Billion to Ditch Galaxy App Store

Nov 18, 2023, 1:00 PM   by Rich Brome

Google agreed to pay Samsung $8 billion over four years to make Google's search engine, voice assistant, and app store the default on Samsung phones, according to testimony presented the ongoing case of Epic Games vs. Google. Epic is suing Google claiming its Play Store is an unlawful monopoly.

Google Optimizes Android so Apps Take Up Less Space

Nov 14, 2023, 11:26 AM   by Rich Brome

Google has released a new version of the Android Runtime (ART), a core component that turns app code into lower-level code that can run directly on that specific device. The update contains new optimizations that reduce the resulting code size by about 9.3%. This means most apps now take up less space in both storage and RAM. On the average Android phone, this means a savings of about 50–100 MB in storage. Thanks to Google's modular design of the Android architecture, the ART update does not require a full OS update.

EU Could to Force Apple to Open iMessage

Nov 8, 2023, 12:48 PM   by Rich Brome

Google and a group of European mobile operators are petitioning the European Union to force Apple to open up its proprietary iMessage platform. The EU has a new Digital Markets law going into effect next year that seeks to regulate "gatekeeper" services of a certain size. Apple is arguing that iMessage falls outside the scope of the law due to the variety of alternative messaging options available. Google, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, and others have written a letter arguing that iMessage qualifies as a "core platform service". The decision could hinge on whether iMessage is an important channel for businesses to communicate with their customers.

Visible Expands Free Trial via eSIM to Google and Samsung Phones

Nov 1, 2023, 7:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Visible first launched its eSIM-based, 15-day free trial with iPhones in January 2022. Starting today, it's available to Samsung Galaxy S- and Z-series phones going back to the S20 series, and Google phones starting with the Pixel 3 series.

Google Bringing Transit Ride History to Google Wallet

Oct 26, 2023, 12:15 PM   by Rich Brome

Google is enhancing its Wallet app to better serve users who pay for public transit with their phone. In certain transit systems that accept "open loop" payments, (tapping a standard credit card at the turnstile, etc.,) the app will now break out those transactions separately with a detailed ride history. It will also show information about savings from time-based fare caps. Transits agencies will also be able to send direct updates, "so you have the latest information on service changes or delays. This new feature will begin rolling out later this year, initially available with Brighton and Hove Buses in the U.K, with plans to bring this feature to more cities next year."

Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 Can Run Generative AI Voice Assistant On-Device

Oct 24, 2023, 2:00 PM   by Rich Brome

Qualcomm has taken the wraps off its new flagship chip for phones: the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3. Unsurprisingly, AI is the emphasis among the new features and performance gains. One key new feature is the ability to run a generative AI large language model (LLM) (specifically, Meta's Llama 2) and integrate it with a voice assistant, all on-device. Google has only recently announced such a service — Google Assistant with Bard — albeit as an "early experiment" and presumably cloud-based. The ability to run such cutting-edge AI entirely on-device, enhancing privacy, is a first. The chip also supports multi-modal generative AI, supporting both input and output via voice, text, and photo. The 8 Gen 3 can generate images via stable diffusion in under one second, many times faster than before. Snapchat has already announced plans to use this feature. The Hexagon NPU AI cores are 98% faster than last year's. In the upgraded Sensing Hub, always-on AI performance has been improved up to 3.5x, and there are now dual ISPs, enabling always-on AI using both front and rear cameras. The upgraded AI capabilities enable features such as Photo Expansion ("zooming out" on an existing photo using generative AI) and Video Object Eraser. The Kryo CPU cores feature 30% better performance and 20% better power efficiency compared to last year's chip. Qualcomm has switched to a 1-5-2 arrangement of the CPU cores, with the prime core running at 3.3 GHz and five "performance" cores running at 3.2 GHz. On the GPU side, the company claims 25% better performance and 25% better power efficiency. The chip is also the first in mobile to support ray-tracing with Global Illumination in Unreal Engine 5.2. It also supports gaming at up to 240 Hz, and upscaling to 8K on external displays. The FastConnect 7800 subsystem supports Wi-Fi 7, Bluetooth 5.4 with LE Audio, and Qualcomm's new XPAN technology that lets earbuds connect over Wi-Fi, for better sound quality and/or extended range. Flagship Android devices powered by Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 are expected to be available in the coming weeks.

Google Updates Gboard to Remember Emoji Skin Tone and Gender Expression

Oct 18, 2023, 12:21 PM   by Rich Brome

In the newest version of Google's Gboard keyboard software, when you choose a skin tone and/or gender expression for an emoji, that choice instantly becomes the default for all compatible emoji.

Qualcomm and Google Bringing RISC-V to Smartwatches

Oct 17, 2023, 6:04 PM   by Rich Brome

Qualcomm is working on a new Snapdragon Wear platform based on the open-source RISC-V architecture instead of Arm. The new chips are intended for smartwatches running Google's Wear OS and Google is working to get Wear OS running on the new RISC-V-based chips. The two companies announced that they plan to commercialize Wear OS wearables based on RISC-V globally, including the US. The planned timeline for commercialization was not revealed. The partnership "will help pave the way for more products within the ecosystem to take advantage" of non-Arm CPUs. Google announced in January that it plans to get Android running on RISC-V chips as a "tier 1" supported platform. Qualcomm invested in a new RISC-V joint venture in August.

Google Enables Passkeys by Default for Google Accounts

Oct 12, 2023, 9:40 AM   by Rich Brome

Passkeys — an easier and more secure alternative to passwords — took a big step forward this week as Google made them the default way to log in to a personal Google account. Passkeys let you log in to a service the same way you unlock your phone: with a fingerprint, face scan, or pin on your phone. Users can opt out, but will be encouraged to use passkeys with a new option described as "Skip password when possible" or "Simplify your sign-in". Other services adding support for passkeys include Uber and eBay, and soon, WhatsApp.

Google Brings Calendar App to WearOS

Oct 12, 2023, 9:27 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Oct 12, 2023, 9:29 AM

Google has finally released a proper Google Calendar app for its WearOS smartwatch platform. The app brings a detailed view of your upcoming events and tasks. Limited interactivity lets you RSVP to meetings and mark tasks completed. The app also brings with it two new Wear OS Tiles: "Next event" and "Next tasks". The app is available now from the Play Store.

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