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Verizon Turns to Messages by Google for Enhanced Messaging

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

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


Android Gains Smarter Auto-Rotate and Long Screenshots

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

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


Google Adds COVID Cards to Android Wallet

Jul 1, 2021, 11:04 AM   by Rich Brome

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


Google Enables End-To-End Encryption in Messages

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

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


Android 12 Beta 2 Brings New Internet, Privacy Controls

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

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


Google Releases Pixel Feature Drop

Jun 8, 2021, 7:00 AM   by Rich Brome

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


Google Intros $99 Pixel Buds

Jun 3, 2021, 1:11 PM   by Rich Brome

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


Qualcomm, Google Bring Updateable Drivers to AI

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

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


Google Reboots WearOS, Merges with Samsung's Tizen

May 18, 2021, 1:52 PM   by Rich Brome

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


Android 12 Sports New, Customizable Look

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

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


Google Announces New Security, Privacy Features for Android

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

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


Google Adding Data Safety Info to Android App Listings

May 7, 2021, 10:01 AM   by Rich Brome

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


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

Apr 5, 2021, 9:55 AM   by Rich Brome

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


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

Mar 30, 2021, 9:18 AM   by Rich Brome

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


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

Mar 29, 2021, 4:12 PM   by Rich Brome

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


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

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

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


Google Drops Play Store Commission to 15% for Most Developers

Mar 16, 2021, 2:27 PM   by Rich Brome

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


Android Auto Adds Games, Wallpaper, Split-Screen View

Feb 23, 2021, 12:43 PM   by Rich Brome

Google is rolling out a major update to Android Auto. The new version includes car-optimized games such as trivia and "Jeopardy!". The feature can be activated by saying "Hey Google, play a game". Users can now "select from a variety of car-inspired backgrounds to personalize your car display". Finally, on "cars with wider screens", a new split-screen view "features a real-time view of Google Maps and media controls". The update will be available in the coming days for phones with Android 6 and above.


Google Now Lets You Schedule a Text in Messages

Feb 23, 2021, 12:35 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has started rolling out an update to it Messages app that lets users schedule a text message to send at a later time. The feature is designed for people with "loved ones in another time zone or on a different schedule". To use the feature, simply press and hold the send button to reveal a new pop-up menu for scheduling. The menu provides several suggested times as shortcuts, plus an option to pick any specific date and time. The feature will be available in the next Messages update for phones running Android 7 and newer.


San Francisco's Clipper Transit Card Coming to Apple Pay, Google Pay

Feb 22, 2021, 11:49 AM   by Rich Brome

Clipper Card — the universal transit fare card for all 24 San Francisco Bay Area transit agencies — will be supported in Apple Pay and Google Pay digital wallets "this spring". Residents and visitors will be able to add a stored-value Clipper card to their digital wallet and tap their phones to ride transit, replacing a physical Clipper card. The system differs from those in cities (such as New York and Chicago) offering "open" fare payments made directly from a credit or debit card in Google Pay / Apple Pay. Apple has launched a page where people can sign up to be notified when Clipper is available for iPhone and Apple Watch. Separately, Google announced a new feature of Google Maps that lets users buy and present transit fare payments — including Clipper, when available — without leaving the Maps app, as part of turn-by-turn directions that include transit.


Android 12 Released to Developers

Feb 18, 2021, 4:50 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has released the first preview version of Android 12 to developers. As a developer release, it focuses on APIs and other developer-focused aspects, rather than necessarily representing the final look and feature set for consumers. Several new features are notable, though:

  • Project Mainline continues to expand, with Google adding the Android Runtime (ART) module to the list of software that Google can update directly through the Play Store, instead of requiring a full OS update approved by manufacturers and carriers. ART handles compiling app code into processor instructions.
  • Better support for newer image and video formats. Specifically, support for the AV1 image file format (AVIF), and better support for the HEVC video format.
  • Rich content insertion, which makes it easier for apps to support copy-and-paste of styled text and multimedia. The new API for rich content also supports drag-and-drop.
  • Haptic-coupled audio effect, which lets apps more easily add haptic effects by linking them to an audio channel.
  • Multi-channel audio, including support for spatial information encoded with MPEG-H, and enabling apps to mix and process up to 24 audio channels.
  • Finally, the Notification UI has been updated to make "custom" notifications look and work more like other notification types.
This first developer release is "for developers only and not intended for daily or consumer use". Android 11 reached this milestone at almost exactly the same point last year. Google's planned timeline for Android 12 shows public betas starting on May, with final release no earlier than August.


Essential Goes to Nothing

Feb 15, 2021, 4:05 PM   by Rich Brome

Nothing, Technologies, a new startup from former OnePlus executive Carl Pei, has purchased the Essential brand. Essential was a phone startup founded by Android creator Andy Rubin after he left Google.


Google Photos Gains New Video Editor, Plus Extra Features for Google One Members

Feb 11, 2021, 12:26 PM   by Rich Brome

Google today announced a new video editor as part of Google Photos. The company also announced that some advanced, AI-powered features previously available only on Pixel phones will now be available on more phones, but only for Google One subscribers. The new video editor adds features to "crop, change perspective, add filters, apply granular edits (including brightness, contrast, saturation and warmth) and more." This is in addition to existing features to trim, stabilize and rotate videos. It's available now in Google Photos for iOS, and "will be rolling out to most Android users in the coming weeks". In the coming months, iOS users will also get the revamped photo editor that rolled out to Android users late last year. Google One subscribers on Android will also get several new features that were previously restricted to Pixel phones. In the coming days, those users will see an updated Google Photos app that includes Portrait Blur, Portrait Light, and new "Dynamic" and "sky" filters. All of these new feature use machine learning to apply advanced effects in a realistic way to any photo, including those captured without depth information. Google One memberships start at $2/month.


Google Fi Extending Free VPN to iPhones

Feb 11, 2021, 11:09 AM   by Rich Brome

Google Fi today announced that its free VPN service is exiting beta for Android, and will "roll out ... to iPhone starting this spring." The VPN service protects against IP address tracking and hacking while using unsecure Wi-Fi networks.


Google, Apple Demand That Parler Moderate Incitements to Violence

Jan 9, 2021, 2:04 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 10, 2021, 10:00 AM

Google and Apple have removed social media app Parler from their respective app stores. Both companies are insisting that Parler implement much stronger moderation of user-submitted content — including posts that encourage illegal behavior or incite violence — if it wants its app listed again. Google stated: "We're aware of continued posting in the Parler app that seeks to incite ongoing violence in the U.S. ... In light of this ongoing and urgent public safety threat, we are suspending the app's listings from the Play Store until it addresses these issues." Parler was created as a "free speech" safe haven for those on the political right that feel censored by more popular social media platforms such as Twitter. Wednesday's deadly storming of the US Capitol Building was planned in public forums and social media, including Parler. Apple initially gave Parler 24 hours to correct the issue, then on Saturday followed through on its threat to remove the app. Parler is facing an even larger threat from Amazon, which says it will remove the service from its AWS hosting platform, a move that will make it difficult for the company to keep the social network online in any form. Parler has pledged to rebuild, a process that its says will take at least one week, during which time the social network will be unavailable.


Qualcomm To Support Four Years of Android Updates on Snapdragon Chips

Dec 16, 2020, 1:30 PM   by Rich Brome

Qualcomm and Google have collaborated to "enhance and extend" Project Treble, Google's initiative to make make it easier for phone makers to offer OS updates (major and minor) faster, more often, and for longer after a phone has launched. Offering an OS update for a phone requires work on the part of both the phone maker and the maker of the phone's chipset. Qualcomm has now committed to doing that work for all of its Snapdragon chipsets for four years after launch, starting with the new Snapdragon 888. This will make it easier for phone makers using those chipsets to offer OS updates to consumers, hopefully leading to more — and more timely — OS updates for Snapdragon-based phones, including major new versions of Android as well security updates. The new commitment is made possible by tweaks to the structure of Project Treble that dramatically reduce the work required to support OS updates across old vs. new devices, as well as across different chipsets.


Google Rolls Out Live Wallpapers Pulled from Old Google Photos

Dec 4, 2020, 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

Dec 4, 2020, 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.


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