Created by Google, Android is a smartphone OS and platform that is open-source and open for any manufacturer to use to make a smartphone. Most Android phones use a version that is mostly provided by Google and requires Google services. Android phones can run Android apps, available from the Google Play Store, or, optionally, from other sources.
Vietnamese manufacturer VinSmart has officially entered the US phone market thanks to a deal with AT&T for "nearly 2 million smartphones". AT&T (and its Cricket prepaid brand) recently started selling two distinct entry-level phone models from VinSmart. Both are under $100 and are white-labeled, meaning they bear the AT&T or Cricket brand (instead of VinSmart or its Vsmart brand). AT&T has turned to Chinese manufacturer Tinno for such phones in recent years. But with the US government's hostile posture toward Chinese telecom companies in the last few years, AT&T may be looking to diversify its suppliers beyond China. The more affordable of the two models is the AT&T Fusion Z. It has a 6-inch HD display and USB-C, but its specs are otherwise minimal, including Android Go Edition, a Snapdragon 215 chip, and a 5 megapixel main camera. AT&T Prepaid shows the list price as $80 but is selling it for $40. Walmart is selling the same phone as the "Motivate" for $50. The slightly higher-end model is the Cricket Influence, which runs full Android 10 thanks to 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 460 chip. Features include a fingerprint reader, modern notched HD display with Gorilla Glass 3, and a 13-megapixel camera plus depth camera for portrait mode. Both phones have a headset jack and memory card slot. Cricket shows a list price of $110 for the Influence, but is selling it for $40 to both new and existing customers. Walmart is selling the same phone for AT&T Prepaid as the AT&T Maestro Plus, for $90. The original "AT&T Maestro" was manufactured by Tinno.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
Beeper is a new $10/month app and service that unifies over a dozen different messaging services into one unified, searchable chat interface. It supports iMessage, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Android Messages (SMS), Telegram, Twitter, Slack, Instagram, Skype, Discord, Signal, and more. It's available for iOS, Android, MacOS, Windows, and Linux. The service supports iMessage via one of two "bridge" methods: 1. the Beeper app running on a Mac that is always connected to the internet, or 2. "we send each user a Jailbroken iPhone with the Beeper app installed which bridges to iMessage". Beeper offers an open API called Matrix that enables bots, extensions, plugins, and integrations. The various "bridges" that power Beeper are open-source, enabling security audits as well as free self-hosting.
Samsung today officially unveiled its Galaxy S21 series of flagship phones for 2021. All three models sport a distinctive new "Contour Cut Camera" design where the metal frame extends around one corner to surround the rear cameras. Each of the three new phones has a starting price a full $200 lower than last year's models. Samsung achieved this on the S21 and S21+ by reducing RAM from 12 to 8 GB and switching from curved QHD-resolution displays to flat FHD displays. Also, none of the S21 series has a memory card slot nor ToD depth camera. Naturally the processor has been updated on all models to Qualcomm's new flagship chip, the Snapdragon 888. Samsung is also using Qualcomm's new Gen 2. ultrasonic in-display fingerprint reader, which offers a 70% larger sensing area and is 50% faster. The phones ship with Android 11 and have a number of software improvements to the camera, such as Director's View, Vlogger View, and multi-mic recording. Samsung has also used AI to improve Single Take, Portrait Mode, and Space Zoom. The camera hardware on the S21 and S21+ is nearly identical to that on the S20 series. The S21 Ultra has the most-upgraded specs of the three, despite starting at a lower price than last year's model.
- Galaxy S21: The specs are very similar to last year's S20, including 4,000 mAh battery, 120 Hz refresh display, 64-megapixel main camera, 8K video capture, IP68 water resistance, fast wireless charging, and Wireless PowerShare. Unlike the S20, the S21 will come with mmWave 5G (including support for Verizon's "Ultra Wideband" network) from day one. It will come with 128 GB of storage, in Phantom Violet, Phantom Gray, Phantom Pink, and Phantom White, for $800. A 256 GB version will also be available in Phantom Gray for an extra $50. Phantom Gold and Phantom Red colors will be available exclusively from samsung.com.
- Galaxy S21+: Its 4,800 mAh battery is larger than that in both the S21 and last year's S20+. It also adds UWB for directional tag-finding and wireless car keys. This is the first time Samsung has put UWB in its S-series. It retains all of the other specs and features of the S21, with a larger 6.7-inch display like the S20+. It will come with 128 GB storage, in Phantom Violet, Phantom Silver, and Phantom Black, for $1,000. A 256 GB version will also be available in Phantom Black for an additional $50. As with the S21, samsung.com will be exclusive seller of Phantom Gold and Phantom Red colors.
- Galaxy S21 Ultra: This top-end model keeps the curved-edge, QHD-resolution display, 12 GB RAM, 108 megapixel main camera, and 40-megapixel front camera of last year's model, while adding several new features, all for a lower $1200 starting price. New this year is Wacom technology bringing full support for Samsung's S Pen, previously only offered on the Note series. The S Pen is an optional accessory. It also adds UWB, Wi-Fi 6e, adaptive display refresh from 10 – 120 Hz for power efficiency, and the ability to use 120 Hz refresh at QHD resolution. The telephoto camera system now includes dedicated 3x and 10x cameras, both 10 megapixel with OIS and dual-pixel auto-focus. All five cameras (front and back) can now shoot 4K video at 60 fps. The 108mp main sensor now has 12-bit HDR and can capture 12-bit RAW photos. It also has laser auto-focus. Pricing starts at $1,200 for 12 GB RAM / 128 GB storage in Phantom Silver or Phantom Black. Versions with 12 / 256 GB (for an extra $50) or 16 / 512 GB (for $1,380) will also be available, in Phantom Black only. Samsung.com exclusive colors will include Phantom Titanium, Phantom Navy. and Phantom Brown.
Motorola today unveiled a full lineup of four new affordable phones, including three g-series models ranging from $169 – $299 and one 5G model for $399. All four feature large batteries (4,000 – 5,000 mAh) and large displays (6.5 – 6.8 inches). All four also include a fingerprint reader, multiple cameras, headset jack, memory card slot, USB-C connector, and a "water-repellant design" that protects against accidental spills, splashes, sweat, or light rain. They ship with Android 10 and Motorola promises one full OS version update plus two years of security updates. Moto's latest camera app supports AI scene detection and optimization, Google Lens, portrait mode, RAW format, Active Photos, Auto Smile Capture, Gesture Selfie, time-lapse, and slow-motion on all models. All four also support gestures such as Lift to unlock, Flip for DND (Do Not Disturb), Pick up to silence, and Fast flashlight, where a quick double-chop motion turns the flashlight on or off. All four phones will be available unlocked as well as from many US carriers.
- moto g play (2021): The most affordable at $170, this phone has a 6.5-inch HD display with notch, huge 5,000 mAh battery, Qualcomm Snapdragon 460 chipset, 3 GB RAM, and 32 GB built-in storage. Its primary 13 megapixel camera is assisted by a depth camera for portrait mode, and the front camera is 5 megapixel. It also has 10W fast charging. The new moto g play will be offered in the coming months by AT&T, Cricket, Boost Mobile, Consumer Cellular, Google Fi, Metro by T-Mobile, T-Mobile, Republic Wireless, Verizon, and Xfinity Mobile.
- moto g power (2021): Upgrades compared to the g play include: Snapdragon 662 chipset, 4 GB RAM, 64 GB storage, up to 15W fast charging, "48 megapixel" main camera that outputs 12-megapixel photos using pixel binning, 2-megapixel macro camera, and an 8-megapixel front camera. The upgraded main camera enables a Night Vision mode and better low-light performance in general. The camera app also gains Cinemagraph mode, Group Selfie, and Spot Color for video. The fingerprint reader moves to the side and the display is slightly larger at 6.6 inches, with a corner hole-punch design. This new moto g power will sell for $250, although Best Buy will sell a variant with 3 GB RAM and 32 GB storage for $200. It will also come to Boost Mobile, Cricket, Consumer Cellular, Google Fi, Republic Wireless, US Cellular, Verizon, and Xfinity Mobile in the coming months.
- moto g stylus (2021): This model adds a stylus that stows in the bottom-right of the phone. It comes with two special apps: Moto Note and Coloring Book. The stylus also offers system-wide shortcuts and works with third-party apps. This is the only model of the four to come with a smaller 4,000 mAh battery, which Motorola says was necessary to make room for the stylus. It has several spec upgrades compared to the g power, including a larger 6.8-inch display with full-HD resolution, Snapdragon 678 chipset, 128 GB storage, 8-megapixel wide-angle camera, 16 megapixel selfie camera, and 4K video capture. It will sell for $300 unlocked. Boost Mobile, Cricket, Consumer Cellular, and Republic Wireless will also offer it in the coming months.
- Motorola one 5G ace: Combines the best of the g power and g stylus specs (minus the stylus) while adding 5G (sub-6 GHz only) thanks to its Snapdragon 750G chipset. Other upgrades include 6 GB RAM, NFC, and an official IP rating for water resistance: IP54 for the T-Mobile version and IP52 for other versions. The display measures 6.7 inches with a centered hole-punch design, and the fingerprint reader is located on the back. It will run $400 unlocked. AT&T, Consumer Cellular, Google Fi, Metro by T-Mobile, T-Mobile, Republic Wireless, Verizon, and Xfinity Mobile will also offer it in the coming months.
Boost has launched the new LG K22, an affordable, entry-level phone with a large 6.2-inch HD notched display. Normally priced at $90, Boost is currently offering the phone for just $70. Other specs include a 3,000 mAh battery, Android 10, Qualcomm 215 processor, 2 GB RAM, and 32 GB of internal storage plus a memory card slot supporting up to 32 GB more. Its 13 megapixel PDAF rear camera is accompanied by a 2 megapixel macro camera. The front camera is 5 megapixel. The camera app supports full-HD video capture and Google Lens. Like most current LG phones, it has a dedicated Google Assistant button on the side. It also includes a 3.5mm headset jack.
Samsung has set January 14th at 10 AM EST as the date and time for its next Unpacked event to launch its "next Galaxy" flagship device. The event will be live-streamed in samsung.com. The company is also offering $60 in instant discounts when customers "reserve" a pre-order prior to the event. The $60 comes in the form of $50 toward accessories in your order, plus $10 in the Android Shop Samsung App. The event is widely anticipated to include the Samsung Galaxy S21, the company's next flagship phone. A teaser video for the event features a series of past Galaxy S flagship phones.
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 has launched Look To Speak, a new, free accessibility app for people living with speech and motor impairments, particularly those who are non-verbal and require assistance to communicate. This Android app "lets people use their eyes to choose pre-written phrases for their phone to speak out loud". Users can customize available phrases and fine-tune the eye gaze sensitivity. All of the data is private and never leaves the phone.
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.
Qualcomm today fully announced the Snapdragon 888 chip and provided details on its features and performance. As the company's new top-end chip for phones, the 888 is expected to power many flagship-tier Android phones in 2021, just as its predecessor the 865 powered most Android flagships in 2020. While the 865 was a two-chip solution (processor + modem), the 888 is fully integrated in one chip. It uses a state-of-the-art 5nm manufacturing process for better efficiency. It's the first chip to support 5G CA (carrier aggregation) across TDD and FDD, sub-6 and mmWave, enabling faster 5G in more scenarios, including on US networks. The eight-core CPU offers a 25% performance boost compared to last year's 865. The GPU is 35% faster and 20% more power-efficient. The AI cores are 43% faster overall, with double the compute capacity, 3x performance per watt, and 26 TOPS (trillion operations per second). The ISP (camera processor) is 35% faster. New features of the 888 include:
- A new 2nd-Generation Sensing Hub with 5x more AI performance and TensorFlow Micro to enable more low-power, always-on features like earthquake and car crash detection. The Sensing Hub can also tap into communication streams (such as GPS, 5G, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth) for the first time, enabling more types of always-on intelligent features.
- Support for capture of 10-bit color still photos, saved in HEIF format.
- Triple-core Spectra ISP can handle three active cameras, simultaneously capturing three 4K HDR videos or three 28 megapixel still photos with zero lag.
- CAI-compliant camera system, which allows the capture of cryptographically-sealed photos that then can be securely authenticated to confirm their source, and that they haven't been modified.
- Support for new staggered HDR camera sensors, which offer computational HDR with low ghosting by taking multiple exposures of different lengths nearly simultaneously. The 888's triple ISP can then combine these exposures instantly. This enables computational HDR for video.
- Variable Rate Shading (VRS), which can offer an increase of up to 30% in gameplay performance.
- Game Quick Touch, for 10–20% faster touch response time.
- A Type-1 Hypervisor that can run multiple OSes isolated at a hardware level, and let the user switch between them instantly. It can also be used to spawn a dedicated, isolated OS for each security-sensitive app on the phone.
At Qualcomm's Snapdragon Tech Summit event, the company announced its next top-end Snapdragon chip, the Snapdragon 888. The 888 is expected to power most flagship Android phones in 2021. Although Qualcomm is saving many details for tomorrow's keynote, it did reveal a few top-level features of the chip. With its X60 modem, it will support 5G carrier aggregation (CA), which can offer up to double the sub-6 GHz 5G data rates compared to chips without 5G CA. The 888 is the first chipset to support 5G CA across TDD and FDD bands, as well as across sub-6 and mmWave bands. The updated Spectra ISP can capture roughly 120 photos per second at 12 megapixel resolution (a total throughput of 2.7 gigapixels per second). The new 6th-generation AI engine can process 26 tera operations per second (TOPS), (compared to 15 TOPS for last year's Snapdragon 865). AI is also part of the new 2nd-generation Sensing Hub, which incorporates lower-power always-on AI processing "for intuitive, intelligent features". Finally, Qualcomm promises the company's "most significant upgrade" in gaming performance.
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 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 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.
LG today unveiled the K92 5G, its entry into the growing surge of phones designed to bring 5G to more affordable price points. The K92 5G will be sold by AT&T, Cricket, and US Cellular starting at just $359, breaking the $399 barrier for the first time. The K92 5G is the second phone to be announced for the US that uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 chipset, following the OnePlus Nord N10 5G earlier this week. The 690 is specifically designed to enable more-affordable 5G phones such as these. Nokia, Motorola, and TCL have also announced that they will use the 690 in forthcoming phones. The 690 supports only sub-6 GHz 5G, not mmWave. The LG K92 5G has a large 6.7-inch full-HD display, 4,000 mAh battery, Quick Charge 4, 6 GB RAM, 128 GB storage, and a memory card slot. Its quad rear cameras include a 64 megapixel (f/1.78) main camera, 5 megapixel wide camera, 2 megapixel macro camera, and depth camera. The 16-megapixel front camera sits in a large centered hole punch. It also has a side-mounted fingerprint sensor, NFC, and stereo speakers. It will ship with Android 10. It will be available from US carriers "shortly".
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 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.
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.
Amazon today announced Luna, the company's entry into the new field of cloud-based gaming. The service will be available on a variety of platforms, including iOS and Android. Starting today, gamers can sign up to request an invitation for the "early access" period that starts next month. It will cost $6/month during "early access". Final launch date and pricing were not announced. The iOS version will be available from the start and runs as a web app, thereby sidestepping the App Store policies that have tripped up Google Stadia and Microsoft xCloud on iOS. The Android version will be available in a few weeks. Although gamers can use their own Bluetooth game controllers, Luna works best with the official Luna controller, which runs $50. Like Google's Stadia controller, it connects directly to the cloud via Wi-Fi, offering lower latency. The Luna controller has built-in Alexa, which can launch games by voice, for example. Luna offers Twitch integration, and makes it easy to pause a game and pick up right where you left off on another device. Luna will offer several different "channels" of games that users can subscribe to individually. Luna+ is the channel included with a basic subscription, and will include around 50 titles at some point during the Early Access period, with more added over time. The initial slate will include Resident Evil 7, Control, Tacoma, Rez Infinite, Metro Exodus, The Sexy Brutale, Overcooked! 2, and more. Ubisoft will also offer its own channel for Luna, also with around 50 titles.
Verizon today launched the TCL Signa, the first TCL-branded phone to be launched by one of the big three US carriers. Previously, most TCL-made phones offered in the US bore the company's Alcatel brand. Although the Signa is an $80 entry-level phone for Verizon prepaid customers, it marks a major step in TCL's effort to expand the TCL brand in the US mobile market. Verizon lists the phone as the "Alcatel TCL SIGNA" on its web site, but the phone itself bears just the TCL and Verizon logos. The Signa has a 5.5-inch HD display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 429 processor, 2 GB RAM, 16 GB storage, 3,000 mAh battery, 8 megapixel main camera, USB-C, Android 10, dedicated Google Assistant button, memory card slot, and headset jack. It's available now for $80.
Nokia this week introduced two new entry-level Android phones, and started taking pre-orders for its first 5G phone.
- Nokia 2.4: This $139 phone has a huge 4,500 mAh battery offering two-day battery life. It also sports a large 6.5-inch display with HD resolution and a notched design, rear fingerprint reader, 13 megapixel camera, depth camera, new Portrait Editor tool, NFC, MediaTek Helio P22 processor, 2 or 3 GB RAM, 32 or 64 GB storage, headset jack, and dedicated Google Assistant button. In the US, it will be available unlocked from Amazon initially, and later, Best Buy. It's available for pre-order now, shipping on October 11th.
- Nokia 3.4: This $179 phone adds a has a 6.4-inch HD display with a hole-punch design, Qualcomm Snapdragon 460 processor, 3 GB RAM, 64 GB storage, 4,000 mAh battery, USB-C, fast charging, metal chassis, rear fingerprint reader, memory card slot, headset jack, and dedicated Google Assistant button. It will be available in the US "later this year".
- Nokia 8.3 5G: First announced in March, the company's first 5G phone is now available for pre-order on Amazon for $699 unlocked, shipping October 26th. Like the 2.4, it will come to Best Buy in "the coming weeks".
Adobe has released a new version of its free Acrobat Reader app for iOS and Android that can intelligently reformat the content of PDF files to make it easier to read on a mobile phone. The new feature, called Liquid Mode, uses Sensei, Adobe's AI engine. It converts all content into a single column the width of the phone screen, eliminating the need to zoom in or scroll sideways. All text is automatically made large enough to read easily, and also made searchable. The tool also automatically identifies headings and sections, auto-generating a table-of-contents menu for navigating longer documents. Controls also let the user adjust the font size and line spacing.
Boost this week launched the Coolpad Legacy Brisa, a new Android phone for $100. It replaces the original Coolpad Legacy released in the middle of last year. It has similar design and features, but improvements include a Snapdragon 665 processor, 16 megapixel selfie camera, and a slightly larger display at 6.53 inches, thanks to a more modern notched design. Like the original Legacy, it sports full-HD display resolution, large 4,000 mAh battery, 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB storage, memory card slot, 16 megapixel main camera, rear fingerprint reader, and USB-C.
Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile have officially launched ZenKey, a new way quickly log in to apps that leverages the authentication that happens automatically every time your phone connects to the cellular network. Apps must be updated to support ZenKey, and developers have the option of enabling ZenKey as the primary login, or as the second token in two-factor logins, replacing PIN codes sent my text message, for example. Customers must also download the ZenKey app (available for both iOS and Android) to start using ZenKey. Currently, only a handful of apps support ZenKey login, (mostly the carriers' own apps,) but carriers hope more apps will add support.
Google has announced the Android 11 version of Android Go, the special edition of Android tailored for the most affordable devices with limited memory specs. While previous versions of Android Go were targeted at phones with just 1 GB of RAM, Android 11 (Go edition) will also be made available to phones with up to 2 GB of RAM. This change accommodates features such as fingerprint readers and dual cameras, which are increasingly common on entry-level phones, and require extra RAM. In version 11, apps now launch 20% faster. Google also continues to shave down the RAM and storage required by the OS itself, making available 270 MB more RAM for apps, and 900 MB additional free storage space. The new OS includes many of the key features of standard Android 11, including new privacy controls and a dedicated notification area for conversations. Android 11 (Go edition) will be available starting next month.
Motorola today revealed the 2020 edition of its razr foldable phone, with upgraded specs across the board and a tweaked design. The general design is largely similar to the 2019 original, including the same flexible inner display and folding mechanism. The hinge has been tweaked with slightly more enclosed gears and is rated for 200,000 flips. The design is sleeker thanks to a 3D curved Gorilla Glass 5 front, and a chin made thinner by moving the fingerprint reader to the back. The frame is now made from 7000 series aluminum instead of stainless steel. Spec bumps include the addition of 5G, a larger battery (2,800 mAh), much better cameras (48 megapixel main with laser auto-focus and OIS + 20 megapixel selfie), Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor, 8 GB RAM, and 256 GB storage. The new razr has the same 2.7-inch, high-resolution touchscreen on the outside, which can run scaled-down versions of select Android apps. The outer interface includes a new navigation bar at the bottom and a customizable app menu. The revamped camera app includes a customizable mode carousel. 5G support includes bands 2, 5, 25, 41, 66, 71, and 78. The new Motorola razr will be offered by both AT&T and T-Mobile, a change from last year's model that was exclusive to Verizon. It will also be available unlocked for $1,400 from motorola.com, Best Buy, B&H Photo, and Amazon. It will be available in Blush Gold, Polished Graphite, and Liquid Mercury (shown). Motorola would only cite "this fall" as the launch timeframe.
CAT today launched the S42, its latest "mid-range" rugged phone, for sale unlocked in the US. Like most CAT phones, it's rugged and waterproof (IP68), but also fully washable with soap and water. It's rated for 6-foot drops onto steel, and also meets US military spec for thermal shock, vibration, humidity, and salt mist. It has a large 4,200 mAh battery and NFC. Its 5.5-inch HD screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 5 and works with both gloves and wet fingers. Other specs include a MediaTek Helio A20 chip, 3 GB RAM, 32 GB storage, memory card slot, LTE Cat. 6, dual-band Wi-Fi, and VoLTE. It ships with Android 10 plus a commitment to an Android 11 update. It also has a programmable side button, headset jack, and micro-USB connector. It has good support for AT&T's 4G network including band 14, and good support for T-Mobile's 4G network including bands 25, 26, 41, 66, and 71. It's available now for $329, from catphones.com and multiple online retailers.
Google is launching Android 11 today, having completed the beta period. The new OS will begin rolling out today on select Pixel and OnePlus phones, with more partners launching and upgrading devices over the coming months. Key features of Android 11 include:
- New treatment for "conversation"-related notifications from messaging apps, including a dedicated area in the Notifications shade, and Bubbles, which lets you briefly view a conversation thread as a pop-up overlay, without leaving the app you're in.
- Privacy improvements, including the ability to grant apps one-time access to sensitive permissions, an "auto-reset" of permissions for apps that haven't been used in a while, and an extra steps required to enable background access to location. Google will also start requiring that developers obtain explicit permission from Google before their app is allowed to ask for background access to location.
- A revamped screen when the lock button is pressed provides quick access to smart-home device controls.
- Support for digital IDs, including digital driver's licenses.
- Support for wireless Android Auto on all phones.
- New media controls that make it easier to switch output device.
- New screenshot tools, including built-in screen recording on all phones. On Pixel phones, Android 11 brings a new feature when taking a screenshot that lets you easily copy an image or text to the clipboard instead.
- For phones linked to a company network, the personal/work Profiles features has several improvements. New Personal/Work tabs have been added to several places including the Share pop-up sheet. A new API available to apps will allow certain apps to present both work and personal data together, while protecting both company data and employee privacy. Google Calendar will support this feature, and third-party apps will be able to support it as well.
- New APIs allowing apps to better support new display technologies, including "waterfall" displays that wrap around the side, and variable refresh rates.
Google is making its own Phone app available to "even more Android devices" starting this week. Google's Phone app offers Google's unique Verified Calls feature, which shows the caller’s name, logo, reason for calling and a verification symbol indicating the business has been authenticated by Google for incoming calls from participating businesses. The Google Phone app comes pre-loaded on Pixel and select other Android phones, but many manufacturers pre-load their own Phone app on their phones. Google's app hasn't been made available to most such phones before now.
Cricket today launched the Alcatel Apprise, a new Android 10 Go Edition phone that sells for just $70. Android Go Edition is optimized for affordable phones with limited memory, like the Apprise with its 2 GB RAM and 16 GB storage. The Apprise has a memory card slot, 5.5-inch SD display, 3,000 mAh battery, MediaTek MT6739 processor, and 5 megapixel cameras front and back. It also has a dedicated Google Assistant button on the side.
Google and Apple are updating their COVID-19 Exposure Notification system to support US states that have yet to develop their own Exposure Notification app. While the initial release of Exposure Notifications required countries or states to release their own app supporting the system, the new Exposure Notifications Express removes that requirement. States must still opt in to the system, but once they do, most iOS and Android phones in that state will receive a push notification inviting them to opt in to the system. On iOS, opting in will activate the new Exposure Notifications Express feature built in to the just-released iOS 13.7. Android users opting in will be prompted to download an app from Google to enable the feature. As with all variants of Exposure Notifications, privacy is protected since personal-identifying and location data is neither collected nor sent to states. Instead, randomly-generated ID numbers are exchanged with nearby phones via short-range Bluetooth, to keep track of which phones are near which other phones, and for how long. When someone enrolled in the system self-reports that they have tested positive for COVID-19, others enrolled in the system that have been near that person are notified, so they can seek testing. Maryland, Nevada, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. have already announced that they will participate, while six states have already released their own apps to enable Exposure Notifications.
T-Mobile today introduced three new models in its own-branded REVVL series: the REVVL 4, REVVL 4+, and REVVL 5G. The REVVL 5G will sell for $400 — or $200 with a new line of service — making it the most affordable 5G phone in the US to date. All three phones run Android 10 and have a fingerprint sensor.
- REVVL 5G: Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 chip and a 4,500 mAh battery. Key specs include 6.53-inch full-HD display, 6 GB RAM, 128 GB storage, and triple rear cameras. The main camera has a 48 megapixel sensor, joined by an 8-megapixel wide camera and 5 megapixel macro camera. A 16 megapixel front camera sits behind a corner hole-punch in the display.
- REVVL 4+: Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 chip and a 4,000 mAh battery. Key specs include 6.52-inch HD display, 4 GB RAM, and 64 GB storage. The main camera has a 16 megapixel sensor. A 16-megapixel front camera is located in a display notch. It will sell for $192.
- REVVL 4: Powered by a MediaTek Helio A22 chip and a 3,500 mAh battery. Key specs include 6.22-inch full-HD display, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB storage, 13 megapixel main camera, and 5 megapixel front camera. It runs $120.
The Blu G90 Pro is a $200 gaming phone. It's powered by a MediaTek Helio G90T processor, a chip introduced last year specifically to power affordable gaming phones such as the Blu G90 Pro. The phone also has a huge 5,000 mAh battery and supports 18W fast charging. The 6.5-inch display has full-HD resolution. It has 4 GB RAM, 128 GB storage, and a memory card slot. It has a 48 megapixel main camera with a Sony sensor, 8 megapixel wide camera, 2 megapixel macro camera, depth camera, and a 32 megapixel selfie camera. It also has USB-C, rear fingerprint reader, and Android 10. It's available in Purple Haze starting today from Amazon.