Google has updated its Maps app with prominent filter options for restaurants offering Delivery and Takeout, to help people find and support local businesses during the pandemic. The feature is available in the Maps app for both Android and iOS.
Google has redesigned its Podcasts app, and made a version available in Apple's App Store for iPhone users. Google Podcasts now stays fully synced between all platforms, including Android, web, and iOS, so you can pause a podcast on your phone and automatically pick up where you left off on the web. The new interface design has three tabs: Home, Explore and Activity. The Home tab features a feed of new episodes and gives you quick access to your subscribed shows. When you select an episode you want to listen to, you'll now see topics or people covered in that podcast. In the Explore tab, you can browse popular podcasts by category, and the app will make personalized show and episode recommendations. The Activity tab displays your listen history, queued up episodes, and downloads. For each show in your subscriptions, you can now enable automatic downloading and/or push notifications for when new episodes come out. The new Google Podcasts is available on iOS today and rolling out to Android this week.
Google will no longer hold any sort of developer event this year, due to the current pandemic. The company's annual I/O event was already changed to an online-only format, but now will not happen at all.
Google will not hold its annual, in-person developer conference this year, to avoid the risk of the gathering helping to spread the coronavirus (COVID-19). The company is refunding paid attendees. A Google spokesperson said the company "will explore other ways to evolve Google I/O to best connect with and continue to build our developer community."
Google today started rolling out a new software update for Pixel phones that adds new capabilities. A long-press of the lock/power button will now surface a simple Google Pay interface that lets you swipe to choose a card or pass before tapping. Another new feature will automatically detect airline boarding pass barcodes when taking a screenshot, and suggest the option to add them as a pass in Google Pay. There is also a new option to have Dark Theme enabled automatically when the sun sets locally. On Pixel 4 phones (which have a RADAR-based gesture sensor), a new mid-air "tap" gesture will pause/play music. Pixel 4 phones will also now be able to capture depth information with the selfie camera, "which improves Portrait Blur and color pop, and lets you create 3D photos for Facebook." Finally, new settings let you configure location-based actions, such as silencing the ringer when at work, or Do Not Disturb mode at home. These can be triggered by either standard location or being in range of a specific Wi-Fi network.
To improve user privacy, Google is updating its Play Store policies to restrict the use of location data by Android apps when they're not actively running. Currently, any Android app can request permission for such access from the user. Starting in August, apps will only be able to do so with explicit permission from Google, having demonstrated a specific need for access to location data in the background. In November, Google will remove apps from the Play Store that have not complied with the new policy. Also today, Google announced the first Developer Preview of Android 11, which includes a new user option to allow apps to access location data on a one-time basis.
Google has released the first Developer Preview of Android 11. The list of features in this version provides a glimpse of what to expect when Android 11 becomes available to consumers later this year. Messaging receives the biggest update, with a new dedicated section of the notifications shade devoted to ongoing conversations. Messaging apps can also use "bubbles" to float a simple messaging thread window above other apps. System permission dialog boxes (for access to location, etc.) now have an "Only this time" option, similar to iOS. Android 11 also adds native support for secure storage and retrieval of verifiable identification documents, such as ISO 18013-5 compliant Mobile Driving Licenses. Call screening apps will now have standardized access to STIR-SHAKEN data, as well as a new screen that appears after each call, "to let users perform actions such as marking a call as spam or adding to contacts.". Also new are better support for pinhole displays, waterfall displays, animated HIEF image files, and low-latency video modes. Developers will benefit from new APIs for machine learning, as well as 5G network status and performance. Android 11 also advances Google's Project Mainline, moving additional components of the OS into modules that are quickly and easily updated via the Google Play Store, instead of requiring a manufacturer-supplied full OS update. The Developer Preview released today is not a "public beta" and is not intended for consumers; it will only run on certain Pixel devices and requires manual installation. Separately, Google announced that Android 11 will enhance Work Profile so that companies issuing company-owned phones to employees can give employees separate work and personal profiles on the same device. Companies still control the work profile and can set device-wide restrictions, but personal data is kept private from the employer. This feature was previously only available for personally-owned devices, not company-issued devices. Google is expected to reveal additional features of Android 11 at its developer conference in May.
Google is expanding the list of phones supported by its Stadia game-streaming service on February 20th. Initially supported only on its own Pixel phones, Stadia will support Samsung flagship Galaxy S and Note series phones (S8 and newer), as well as gaming phones from Razer and Asus (ROG Phone and ROG Phone II). For a controller, gamers can either connect a Stadia controller via USB, or third-party controllers via Bluetooth. Stadia competes with Microsoft's xCloud and Nvidia's GeForce Now. Like those other game-streaming services, Stadia runs full console-quality games on powerful servers in the cloud, streaming video of the rendered graphics to the user's device. Such services benefit from the higher data rates and lower latency of 5G networks. Forthcoming 5G SA networks will further reduce latency and improve data rates.
Google has updated its Gboard keyboard option for Android phones to include a new Emoji Kitchen feature, which lets you create sticker graphics based on custom combinations and variations of standard emoji. For example, when you tap the face-with-cowboy-hat emoji, it presents options for monkey cowboy, ghost cowboy, laughing cowboy, kissy cowboy, in love cowboy, pleading cowboy, and pensive cowboy. The feature is rolling out to all Gboard users starting this week.
Google has launched a new support service for Android. Anyone using the hashtag #AndroidHelp on Twitter will receive Android tech support from Google.
Transact — a leading supplier of student ID card systems — this week announced support for Google Pay, the primary digital wallet feature of Google's Android OS. The new capability allows students of participating colleges and universities to carry their student ID in their phone instead of a physical card. Students can simply tap their NFC-enabled phone on readers to access campus buildings, as well as payments for dining, laundry, vending, and retail. Apple Wallet has supported the Transact platform since late 2018, and additional student-ID systems since late 2019. Fifteen institutions have committed to the initial roll-out of Transact for Google Pay, including Arkansas State University, Chowan University, College of Coastal Georgia, Duke University, Georgetown University, Hamilton College, Johns Hopkins University, Marshall University, Mercer University, Roanoke College, St. Edward’s University, South Dakota State University, Temple University, The University of Alabama, and University of New Brunswick.
At CES this year, Google is showing off several new functions coming to Google Assistant on Android phones. Soon, you'll be able to say "Hey Google, read it" or "Hey Google, read this page" when you're viewing an article. When you do, it will use "new voice datasets to create more expressive and more natural sounding voices" for reading long-form content. The content can also be translated into 42 languages. Google is also adding two new voice actions for people to easily control their privacy. The first is "Hey Google, that wasn’t for you," which lets you tell the Assistant to forget what it heard if an unintended activation occurs. The other is "Hey Google, are you saving my audio data?" to learn about your privacy controls and go directly into the settings screen to change your preferences. Google added several other privacy-related commands recently, including "Hey Google, delete everything I said to you this week."
Amazon, Apple, and Google have joined forces on a new working group within the ZigBee Alliance to create a new, royalty-free connectivity standard to increase compatibility among smart home products. The new group, called Project Connected Home over IP, will take an open-source approach for the development and implementation of the new protocol, including a specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification. By basing the new standard on IP (internet protocol) technology, the need for proprietary smart home "hubs" should be reduced or eliminated, and proven security technologies can be used. The first version of the standard will be designed to work over three different radio types: Wi-Fi (up to and including Wi-Fi 6), Bluetooth LE 4.1-5.0, and 802.15.4 (using Google's Thread at 2.4 GHz). The first compatible devices may implement the new protocol over any one (or more than one) of the three radio types, in addition to existing smart home protocols. Rather than starting from scratch, the group intends to accelerate development by leveraging existing, market-tested technology contributed by the founding companies. Google will contribute its Weave and Thread technologies, both of which are used in its Nest products. Apple will contribute HomeKit, Amazon will contribute its Alexa Smart Home technology, and the Zigbee Alliance will contribute its Dotdot data models. Other participating companies include Samsung SmartThings, IKEA, Legrand, NXP Semiconductors, Somfy, Resideo, Schneider Electric, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), Silicon Labs, and Wulian. The Working Group has a goal to release a draft specification and a preliminary reference open source implementation in late 2020.
Google has added two major new features to its Messages app for Android phones: Verified SMS and spam protection. Verified SMS is a way for Google to confirm that SMS messages claiming to come from a participating business are, in fact, legitimate messages from that company. A special banner will appear at the top of such message threads to let the user know that the message is authentic. The feature should help combat phishing attacks involving fake security messages, for example. The US is among the launch countries. Businesses participating at launch include SoFi, Payback, Banco Bradesco, Kayak, and 1-800-Flowers. Spam protection works the opposite way, showing a warning banner on messages that Google suspects are spam, or that include links to web sites that Google knows to be unsafe. This features has been available in other countries, but is now rolling out "broadly" in the US. The spam banner includes options for confirming that a message is spam, or marking "not spam". Both new Messages features work without sending all of your messages to Google, keeping your messages private.
Incognito Mode is now available in Google Maps for iOS. In the Android version of Maps, a new bulk-delete features lets you delete all of your location history with Google, or any date range.
Google is rolling out a "feature drop" software update for its Pixel phones, which adds new and improved features to Pixel models going back to the Pixel 2. The Pixel 4 gains improved Call Screen; on-device intelligence will now detect robocalls and keep the phone from ringing at all. Other unknown callers will be screened as before. The Pixel 4 also gains improved Duo video calling. The phone will digitally track and frame your face automatically. It also uses machine learning to automatically fill in small audio gaps when the connection is spotty. A new Google Photos feature lets all Pixel users add portrait effects after a photo is taken, and Duo video calling gains a portrait effect as well. Google is also rolling out certain Pixel 4 features to certain older Pixels, including: Recorder app, Live Caption, Focus Mode, and Flip to Shhh. The update also improves memory management in all Pixel models, allowing more apps to stay open at the same time.
Google has added a new feature to Google Photos that make it easy to start a private photo and message thread with one or more contacts. When sharing a photo, the new choice lets you start a new thread or add to an existing one, making it easier to group a series of photos shared with one or more specific people. All participants can also add comments and likes, and download full-res photos.
Google has updated its Maps app with the ability to speak aloud the name and/or address of your destination in the local language when traveling abroad. The feature is designed to be used when hailing a taxi or asking a local for directions. The feature appears automatically when in a country where the local language doesn't match your device's language setting. A speaker icon appears next to the place name in each listing. Tapping it brings up a new box with the option to speak the place name in the local language, speak the address in the local language, or jump to Google Translate to continue a conversation with a local. The new feature will be rolling out this month on Android and iOS with support for 50 languages and more on the way.
Google today announced the US rollout of Google-operated RCS for its Messages app for Android, making RCS "broadly" available to Android users in the US by the end of the year. RCS is the new industry standard for messaging designed to replace SMS and MMS. It brings advanced features similar to iMessage, including the ability to send and receive high-resolution photos and videos, and see if people have received your messages. Although the Messages app has supported RCS for some time, it has relied on carrier support on a phone-by-phone basis, which has been slow to roll out. Google's new service announced today side-steps carrier infrastructure and gives Android users RCS without waiting for carrier support. Google launched a similar service in the UK, France, and Mexico earlier this year. Just three weeks ago, the top four US carriers announced a joint venture to accelerate the launch of carrier-run RCS in the US in 2020. It's unclear if these two efforts might conflict in the coming months, but Google says it is "committed to working with our partners, including carriers and device makers, to provide a consistent and interoperable experience for everyone on Android."
Google this week announced a new program to collaborate with other companies to screen apps for harmful code before they reach the Google Play Store, the app store for Android devices. The App Defense Alliance includes Google, ESET, Lookout, and Zimperium. "As part of this Alliance, we are integrating our Google Play Protect detection systems with each partner’s scanning engines. This will generate new app risk intelligence as apps are being queued to publish."
Google has added a rewards program called Google Play Points to the Android app store. The program is free to join and members earn points for everything they buy through Google Play, and even for downloading "featured" free apps and games. Points can be redeemed for Google Play purchases, in-app purchases and discounts, as well as donations to charity. The program has four tiers, with higher levels offering weekly prizes. The program is launching this week in the US, but has been available in Korea and Japan for a year.
Fitbit has agreed to be purchased by Google for $2.1 billion. Fitbit makes activity-tracking wearables, having sold more than 100 million devices, with 28 million current active users. Google has its own Wear OS smartwatch platform, which integrates with its Google Fit activity- and health-tracking service. Google said it sees "an opportunity to invest even more in Wear OS as well as introduce Made by Google wearable devices into the market." On privacy, Fitbit says "Fitbit will continue to put users in control of their data and will remain transparent about the data it collects and why. The company never sells personal information, and Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads." Fitbit also pledged to continue supporting both iOS and Android.
Google has stopped selling Daydream VR headsets and the new Pixel 4 phones won't support Daydream VR. The Daydream headset used a phone's display and processor to power a mid-range VR experience.
Google has unveiled the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, its new own-brand flagship Android phones. The phones have Motion Sense, which uses a tiny RADAR sensor to read mid-air hand gestures, and power advanced face recognition for phone security. Google claims its face unlock is the fastest on the market, and requires no screen touch at all. This technology was first developed as Google's Project Soli. The OLED display supports an auto-adjusting refresh rate, up to 90 Hz. The Pixel 4 also reacts to squeeze gestures. The Pixel 4 comes with Google Recorder, which includes real-time, on-device voice recognition and dictation that produces searchable transcripts. The camera includes both standard (12 megapixel, f/1.7, 77º) and telephoto (16 megapixel, 52º) lenses, as well as multi-frame hi-res digital zoom. The improved HDR+ now supports live preview and dual exposure controls for greater creative control. An AI-powered white balance feature recognizes scene elements to provide better color. The improved portrait function uses both cameras. The new night mode supports astrophotography with long exposures up to 4 minutes. The larger XL model has a 6.3-inch QHD+ display and 3,700 battery, while the smaller model has a 5.7-inch FHD+ display and 2,800 mAh battery. Both models have a Snapdragon 855 processor, 6 GB of RAM, 64 or 128 GB of storage, and 18W fast charging. The Pixel 4 will be available from all major US carriers on October 24th, with pre-orders available today. It will start at $799 ($899 for the XL) and come in Just Black, Clearly White, and Oh So Orange.
Google today previewed the new Pixel Buds, which are its first fully wireless Bluetooth earbuds. They feature built-in machine learning processing that powers Google Assistant, language translation, and other experiences to be announced. They have long-range Bluetooth that can reach up to the length of a football field. The design fits almost completely inside the ear, with a spatial vent that allows you to hear a limited amount of ambient sound at all times. Beam-forming mics allow you to be heard clearly on calls, and power an auto-volume feature. The new Pixel buds last 5 hours on their own, or 24 hours with the included charging case. They'll be available in the spring of 2020 for $179.
Going forward, all new phones shipping with Android 9 or 10 will come with the YouTube Music app. On Android 10 devices, it will be the only music app from Google to be pre-installed, replacing Google Play Music.
Google today launched Play Pass, a new $5/month subscription service for Android users that provides full access to over 350 games and apps, ad-free and without in-app purchases. Google is offering a ten-day free trial as well as special intro pricing of just $2/month for the first 12 months. The collection of games and apps is curated by Google. Games and apps part of Play Pass at launch include Terraria, Monument Valley, Risk, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, AccuWeather, and many more. Google will add new titles every month. Developers are invited to express interest, but Google decides which developers to invite into the program. The service is similar to Apple Arcade, a $5/month subscription games service Apple just launched for devices using its platforms. Google is leveraging existing titles while Apple Arcade games are all exclusive to that service.
Google has added an unlimited-data plan option to its Google Fi cellular service. The pricing is competitive with what most major US carriers are currently offering, starting at $70/line for just one line, down to $45/line for 4-6 lines. The plan also includes unlimited data and texting while abroad in 200 destinations, and free calling from the US to 50 countries and territories. It also includes a Google One membership, which includes 100 GB of cloud storage. Like most competing plans in this price range, Google "may" limit streaming video to SD resolution, and data speeds are reduced after 22 GB is used in a given month. Google still offers its traditional Flexible plans, which start at $20/month plus $10/GB for data. Flexible plans do not include free data while overseas, free international calling, nor Google One membership.
The Google Chrome web browser now lets you send the web page you're on at the moment to another one of your devices, so you can finish on your phone an article you started reading at your desk, for example, or vice-versa. The feature debuted in version 77, which just became available for all platforms. To use the feature on a desktop platform, simply right-click the browser tab and choose "Send to Your Devices". The feature is somewhat hidden on mobile: tap the three-dot menu icon at the top right, choose "Share...", scroll down to "Apps list", and there's now an extra Chrome icon that says something like "Send to yo...". After choosing a target device, a notification appears on the target device that you can click to open the sent web page. The feature does not preserve sessions on web sites that require a login. Although The Verge could not get it to work on macOS, Phone Scoop used the feature on macOS. Firefox has had a similar feature since February.
Google is making its differential privacy code freely available to all developers. Differential Privacy is a special mathematic technique that allows organizations to collect data from individuals in a way that guarantees individual privacy. Collected data cannot be traced back to any one person. For example, Google uses this technique to capture what dishes people order at restaurants. The data is then used to show which dishes are most popular at restaurants in Google Maps results. But by using differential privacy, Google has no way of using that data to go back determine what any specific person ordered. By releasing this code, Google hopes to encourage more app developers to use differential privacy techniques when they collect data from app users.
Google released the final version of Android 10 today, after several months of public beta versions. It's available now for all of Google's own Pixel phones, and will be available for other phones in the coming weeks and months. The new OS offers a system-wide dark mode, new gesture navigation, and new privacy controls, among many features and improvements. For the new gesture navigation, a swipe in from the left or right edge of the screen performs the "back" action, while a swipe up from the bottom edge takes users to the home screen. Some apps will need to be updated to avoid triggering the back action accidentally. Users will also be notified when an app requests location data while running in the background, and users can decline those requests. Google recently changed the version naming scheme for Android, switching to simple numbers instead of letters and dessert names.
The FCC today approved four new Google Pixel phones, two of which seem US-bound, both of which include short-range 60 GHz radios, commonly used for the technology known as WiGig, Wireless Display, or 802.11ad. WiGig is fast enough to send 4K video or real-time VR wirelessly. The high frequency and low power of WiGig limit it to very short-range applications, typically within the same room. However 60 GHz radios could also be used for RADAR, and Google has put out its own teaser for the Pixel 4 revealing that the phones will have face unlock and support mid-air hand gestures, both features which could potentially leverage RADAR hardware running at 60 GHz. The phones are presumably the forthcoming Pixel 4 series, although FCC documents made public today reveal little else of note about the "G020I" and "G020J". As with previous Pixel phones, they include support for all frequency bands used by US LTE networks, including newer bands like 14, 30, 66, and 71.
Google has dramatically expanded its bug bounty program to include non-Google Android apps in Google Play with 100 million or more installs, as well as data privacy issues in any app. Google will work with developers' own bug/vulnerability bounty programs, but will pay out bounties in addition to those of developers. Google will also use reports of security vulnerabilities through the new program to improve its automated scanners that look for security issues in all apps uploaded to the Play Store. Google is also starting a new program called Developer Data Protection Reward Program (DDPRP) that will offer similar rewards for people who find proof that an app in the Play Store is violating Google's policies on data privacy. Google will pay up to $50,000 to people who identify situations where user data is being used or sold unexpectedly, or repurposed in an illegitimate way without user consent.
In the coming weeks, Google Maps transit directions will be enhanced to include biking and ride-share as options for each end of the trip, when appropriate. The feature includes cost estimates and estimated wait times, and lets you hire a ride-share car right within the directions. You can also choose your favorite ride-share provider and other available ride options like pool or economy. The new options are factored into your total travel time and ETA.
Google has updated Google Photos with the ability to search for text contained within your photos and videos. Google acknowledged the feature on Twitter, adding that it will roll out to users "starting this month". Phone Scoop was able to use the feature successfully. For example, searching for "wi-fi" brought up photos containing that text, useful for capturing and recalling local Wi-Fi passwords. Users can also copy text directly from the photo using the Lens feature.
The tenth version of the Android operating system for phones will be known simply as "Android 10", dropping Google's long-running practice of publicly referring to OS versions by "internal code names" named after desserts. Android 9 was named "Pie", 8 was named "Oreo", and 7 was "Nougat". Google says the change will make the naming more accessible to a global audience, including places where "pie" is not a dessert, or marshmallows are uncommon, for example. Google also revealed a new logo for the OS.
Google is starting to roll out new features in Search, Assistant, and its Google Podcasts app to make it easier to find and listen to relevant podcasts. Starting today, including the word "podcasts" in a search will bring up a new section with playable podcast results. Soon, Google will surface playable podcast results for certain searches even without using the "podcasts" keyword. Later this year, Google will make the same function available when searching using Google Assistant. For example, when you say "Hey Google, play a podcast about Marie Curie," it will suggest relevant episodes for you. Google syncs listening progress, so you can start a podcast, and pick up where you left off in Google Podcasts. Google is also working with podcasters to let them specify where their podcasts are available, to help surface non-free podcast content.
Google is adding a new feature to some Android phones that can speak to an emergency operator on your behalf when you call 911. During an emergency call, three new buttons — "Medical", "Fire", and "Police" — will be available in case you're unable to speak. They will initiate a voice message to the emergency operator that explains the nature of the emergency and your current location. After you activate the service, you can always speak directly to the operator as well. The feature will become available in the US over the coming months, starting with Pixel phones.
Google today issued a blog post detailing two key new features of the forthcoming Pixel 4: Face Unlock and Motion Sense mid-air hand gestures. Face Unlock is designed to be faster and more seamless than Apple's implementation. It uses four infrared components: a dot projector, flood illuminator, and two cameras. With these components, it can recognize your face from any angle as you lift it, and fully unlock before you're ready to touch the screen. Face Unlock will also work for secure payments and app authentication. The Pixel 4 will also include a RADAR chip developed by Google as Project Soli. This enables Motion Sense, which can detect mid-air hand gestures made in front of the phone, such as waving your hand to skip songs, snooze alarms, and silence phone calls. The sensors for these new features take up space above the display, creating a "forehead" instead of the notch or all-screen design that has become standard in high-end phones recently. Both features keep data locally for privacy. Facial recognition data is stored in Google's custom Titan M security chip.
The Google app for iOS and Android now makes it easier to search for animated GIFs and share them directly to popular messaging apps. When searching for "excited gif", for example, a new "share GIFs" section in image results will show GIFs based on how likely they are to be shared, and include a "share" button that connects directly to apps including Whatsapp, Android Messages, Gmail, and Hangouts. The feature is also available in when searching Google in Chrome on Android.