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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.

by:  Google

Google to Charge Phone Makers to Use Google Apps in EU

Yesterday, 12:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is appealing the European Commission's recent decision against Android. The EU sees the mobile platform's dominance as anti-competitive and fined Google $5 billion. Google believes Android has spurred competition and created a rich and flourishing ecosystem. However, Google has also developed a plan to comply with the EU's decision. Moving forward, Android device makers that want to install the Google Play Store and Google apps on phones and tablets in the EU will also be able allowed to build non-compatible, or forked, variants. Device makers can license the Google mobile application suite separately from Google Search and Google Chrome, which will now have their own licensing agreement. Google says it will offer new agreements to its partners that choose to pre-install Search and Chrome. Competing search and browser apps may also be pre-installed. "Since the pre-installation of Google Search and Chrome together with our other apps helped us fund the development and free distribution of Android, we will introduce a new paid licensing agreement for smartphones and tablets" that are shipped to the EU, said the company. Google will use the licensing fees to make up for lost revenue due to the decrease in Search and Chrome pre-installs. The change goes into effect October 29.

Google Adds EV Charging Stations to Maps

Yesterday, 11:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said people can now search for and locate electronic vehicle charging stations in Google Maps. In addition to displaying the closest stations, Maps will provide information about the business where the charger is located, the types of ports that are available, how many ports there are, and charging speeds. Google says it offers crowd-sourced information, too, such as photos, ratings, and reviews of the charging stations. Google will supply links to additional details about the charger. Globally, Google Maps will locate Tesla and Chargepoint chargers, and in the U.S. it will also locate SemaConnect, EVgo, and Blink chargers. Android and iOS users can download the new version of Maps with EV charging locations today. Google says the same information will be available on desktop PCs in the coming weeks.

Boost Mobile Lights Up the Coolpad Illumina

Yesterday, 9:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 12:10 PM

Boost Mobile today announced the Coolpad Illumina, an affordable Android phone that runs the lightweight Android Go platform. Android Go is designed for low-spec'd devices and includes simplified versions of core apps such as Gmail, YouTube, and Maps. The Illumina has a 5-inch screen and it is powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. A 5-megapixel camera graces the rear and a 2-megapixel camera faces the user. Other features include a 2,150mAh battery, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Boost Mobile is selling the Coolpad Illumina for $40 after an instant $40 credit.

Huawei’s Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro Take Aim at Galaxy Note9

Yesterday, 8:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 11:48 AM

Huawei today announced it flagship series for the year, the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro. The phones share a number of features, but have their own identity thanks to differences in the screen and chassis. The most distinctive feature is the camera module on the rear, which is square-shaped and contains three cameras and the LED flash. Both the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro are powered by Huawei’s Kirin 980 processor, which it says delivers even more AI-based smarts than its last-generation chip. The Kirin 980 features dual neural processing units to improve image recognition, Master AI for processing 1,500 different scenes, and predictive focus for tracking subjects in real time. Other shared features include Cat 21 LTE with dual SIM cards, Bluetooth 5.0, WiFi, GPS, and support for 256 GB memory cards. Both include a 24-megapixel selfie camera at f/2.4, and come in five colors, including green, blue, twilight, pink gold, and black. The devices run Android 9 Pie with Huawei's EMUI 9.0 skin on top. EMUI 9.0 is pared back a bit when compared to EMIO 8.0, and features business software as well as the ability to project a desktop mode to wireless displays.

  • Mate 20 Pro: The Mate 20 Pro is the higher-end version of the two phones. It boasts a notched 6.39-inch curved OLED display with quad HD+ resolution and support for HDR. The Mate 20 Pro includes a fingerprint reader buried under the display, as well as 3D facial recognition for security. The phone features three rear cameras contained in a square module on the rear. The main camera has a 40-megapixel sensor at f/1.8, and it is joined by an ultra wide-angle 20-megapixel sensor at f/2.2, and an 8-megapixel 3x telephoto sensor at f/2.0. The phone supports wireless charging and can even act as a charger for other devices. The battery is rated at 4,200mAh. It comes with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage.
  • Mate 20: This device has a "teardrop" notched screen that measures 6.53 inches across the diagonal with full HD+ resolution. The Mate 20 also features a three-camera array on the back with a main sensor of 12 megapixels at f/1.8, a wide-angle sensor of 16-megapixel at f/2.2, and an 8-megapixel 2x telephoto sensor at f/2.4. The phone supports wireless charging and the battery is rated at 4000mAh. It comes with either 4 or 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage and a rear-mounted fingerprint reader for security.
The Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro are expected to ship starting today. The Mate 20 costs €799 and the Mate 20 Pro costs €1049.

Google's Pixel Camera App to Add Support for External Mics

Monday, 10:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google says it plans to introduce support for external microphones for its line of Pixel phones. This will allow those shooting video to capture higher-quality audio to accompany their visuals. The feature will work with USB-C ports (Pixel 2, 3) and 3.5mm jacks (Pixel). The company confirmed the update in its forums, stating, "At the same time as Pixel 3 launch (October 18th), we will introduce support for Android-compatible plugged-in external microphones in the default camera app for all Pixels." Other Android camera apps have supported this feature for some time, but not the main Pixel camera app. Pixel owners can expect to see their app update with the new tool in the next few days.

Palm Comes Back from the Dead With Pint-Sized Verizon Exclusive

Monday, 7:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Palm, a California company that purchased the rights to the Palm brand from TCL, today launched a new device it calls an ultra-mobile product that "syncs with your smartphone to keep you connected but not consumed." The idea is to allow people to access their vital apps when needed, but keep them from staring at their screen all day — particularly when they are out and about. The device is tiny and features an aluminum chassis with Gorilla Glass panels front and back. It's rated IP68 for protection against dust and water. Palm says the device is designed to be worn, not carried. Rather that serve as a primary phone, it is a companion device. Owners will need to have a regular Android or iOS smartphone on a Verizon service plan. The Palm is billed like a smartwatch. Service costs $10 per month and it relies on the same number as the main device. It's able to keep messages, calls, and other data in sync between itself and the primary phone. The Palm has a 3.3-inch HD screen and it is powered by a Snapdragon 435 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. It has a 12-megapixel rear camera with flash and an 8-megapixel selfie camera. The Palm includes LTE, WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth, with an embedded SIM card. The device has an 800mAh battery and relies on face unlock for security. The phone runs Android 8.1 Oreo and is compatible with millions of Android apps. The user interface skips the idea of a home screen and instead shows all the on-board apps. A small gesture pad is available at the bottom of the screen, accessed by swiping up, and it can be used to search for apps based on scrawling the first letter of the app. The gesture pad also contains shortcuts to the phone, messages, camera, and music apps. The crux of the Palm is Life Mode. With this mode activated, the Palm essentially goes to sleep when users turn off the screen, preventing calls and messages from interrupting the owner. Owners can customize Life Mode a bit. The phone returns to full functionality when owners choose to wake the screen back up. Google Assistant is built in and works with custom, voice-activated shortcuts that perform a variety of actions. The Palm costs $350 and will go on sale in November.

Facebook Lets iPhone Users Post 3D Photos to News Feed

Oct 12, 2018, 7:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook has made it possible for people to share 3D pictures via the social network. There are multiple steps needed to successfully create a 3D post. First, 3D photos require an image captured using the Portrait mode on the dual-camera iPhone 7+, 8+, X or Xs. This is vital, as the second camera captures depth-of-field information as well as perspective. Facebook has added a special tab to News Feed that allows people to post 3D images. Once the Portrait photo is uploaded, Facebook does the rest. Everyone will be able to interact with 3D photos via their browser, using the mouse to tilt and pan a bit for the 3D effect. Facebook says 3D photos can also be viewed through its Oculus virtual reality devices. The 3D photos should reach everyone in the coming weeks. Facebook didn't specify when dual-camera Android phones will gain the ability to post 3D photos.

Fortnite for Android No Longer Requires An Invitation

Oct 11, 2018, 1:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Epic Games today made its popular Fortnite game available without an invitation. The app has been available in beta since August, though an invite was required for access. Epic Games has dropped the need for an invitation and most anyone can download the game. Fortnite is not available in the Google Play Store. Instead, people interested in the game will need to go to Epic's web site to download an installer. The installer then puts the game on the phone. The game started as an exclusive to the Samsung Galaxy Note9 and was later discovered to have a major security flaw in the installer (since patched). Fortnite is best played on high-end devices that have Android 8 Oreo installed. Some compatible phones include the Samsung Galaxy S7, S8, and S9 series; all Google Pixel phones; the LG G5, G6, G7, V20, and V30; the Asus ROG Phone and 5Z; the Essential Phone; the Huawei Mate 10, Mate 10 Pro, Honor 10, and Honor Play; the OnePlus 5, 5T, and 6; the HTC 10, U Ultra, U11+, U12+; the Sony Xperia XZ1, XZ2, and XZ3 series; as well as a handful of others from Xiaomi, ZTE, Nokia, and Lenovo.

Google Says More Features to Reach Assistant On More Devices

Oct 11, 2018, 11:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has prepared a number of updates to Google Assistant on smart displays, phones, and other products that will see the voice-activated helper become even more ubiquitous. Pixel 3 owners will soon be able to access Assistant in the lock screen. This requires users to opt in; once they do, their phone can respond to "Hey Google" queries without being unlocked. Google highlighted a feature for the Pixel 3 that lets people screen calls via Google Assistant. Assistant answers the call and provides a live, on-screen transcription of the interaction so people can decide whether or not to pick up. Google says this tool will come to the Pixel 3 later this month, and will reach the original Pixel and Pixel 2 in November. Google plans to launch Duplex in select cities later this year. People in New York, Atlanta, Phoenix, and San Francisco will be able to use Duplex to automatically book restaurant reservations. All Android phones will soon be able to see a visual snapshot of their day in Google Assistant. With Assistant open, a quick swipe up shows event recommendations, reminders, and other personalized information throughout the day. Though Google announced the Home Hub, its own smart display, Google plans to empower other smart displays with the latest Assistant features. For example, later this year smart displays will support multi-room audio by connecting with more than one in-home speaker. Smart displays will also gain access to Live Albums from Google Photos, visuals from the Nest Hello Doorbell, and Home View for supporting and controlling all in-home smart devices. All newer Assistant-enabled devices will have access to Digital Wellbeing for managing screen time. Last, Google says Assistant can be used to control a wider variety of gear, such as TVs, set top boxes, smart remotes, and speakers. People will be able to power devices on and off, adjust playback/volume, and browse visual channel guides by voice.

Samsung Galaxy A9 Adopts 4-Camera Configuration

Oct 11, 2018, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has announced the Galaxy A9, a mid-range device that is among the first to include a four-camera array on the rear panel. The stand-out feature is this camera, which includes wide, telephoto, and normal lenses, as well as a depth-of-field camera. The wide-angle lens has an 8-megapixel sensor at f/2.4, the 2x optical zoom telephoto lens has a 10-megapixel sensor at f/2.4, the main camera has a 24-megapixel sensor at f/1.7, and the depth camera has a 5-megapixel sensor at f/2.2. Samsung says these cameras allow people to flex their creative muscles. Software such as Scene Optimizer and Portrait Mode help expand and improve imaging. The front camera has a 24-megapixel sensor. The Galaxy A9 has a 6.3-inch full HD+ AMOLED display, octa-core processor, 6 or 8 GB of RAM, and 64 GB of storage. It supports memory cards up to 512 GB. Other specs include a 3,800mAh battery, fingerprint reader, NFC and Samsung Pay, dual-band WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth 5.0, and Cat 9 LTE. The phone runs Android 8 Oreo and includes Bixby and Samsung Health. It goes on sale in select markets starting in November. Pricing was not disclosed.

Razer Phone 2 Makes Modest Improvements to the Original

Oct 11, 2018, 7:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Razer has announced the Razer Phone 2, a follow up to the gaming device it launched last year. This new phone carries forward the same basic design, but upgrades the specs and performance. Starting with the display, Razer stuck with the 5.7-inch quad HD IGZO screen with a 120 Hz refresh rate, but improved brightness by 50%. The phone is powered by the Snapdragon 845 processor at 2.8 GHz with 8 GB of RAM and what Razer calls "vapor cooling" to help control thermals. Keeping the heat down leads to improved performance. The phone adopts a pair of Sony IMX sensors for the camera. The main camera features a wide field of view with a 12-megapixel sensor at f/1.75 and OIS, while the secondary camera has a telephoto lens with a 12-megapixel sensor at f/2.6. The phone can capture full HD video and 120fps slow motion. The front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor at f/2. Razer added an illuminated Chroma to the rear of the phone, allowing owners to take advantage of presets or adjust the light however they wish. The phone has a 4,000mAh battery that supports rapid charging and wireless charging. The chassis is rated IP67 for protection against water and dust, and a fingerprint reader is located on the right edge. The front-facing stereo speakers are powered by a 24-bit DAC and support Dolby Atmos. Razer nixed the headphone jack, but it included a DAC-assisted USB-C-to-3.5mm adapter in the box. The phone runs Android 8.1 and has its own launcher styled after Razer's design language. It includes the Cortex Mobile app where owners can find the latest games. The Razer Phone 2 comes in either black satin or black mirror. It supports most U.S. LTE bands and can run on AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. The phone is available for preorder direct from Razer for $799.

Google to Sunset Its 'Reply' App for Android Phones

Oct 10, 2018, 4:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google says it has decided to stop updating and supporting Reply, a beta app that brought Google's smart reply functionality to third-party apps. "As you know, Reply was an experiment, and that experiment has now ended," said Google in an email sent to beta testers. "While it might still work for the next few months, you may encounter bugs, or see that the suggestions aren’t as good." Google suggested that it may bring some of Reply's features to other Google products.

Hate the Notch? Google Will Let You Hide It On the Pixel 3 XL

Oct 10, 2018, 4:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has indicated that owners of the Pixel 3 XL will be able to effectively hide the notch with a software feature. "For people who prefer a more traditional smartphone look, we’ve added an option to hide the display cutout (the notch)," said Google via one of its Twitter accounts. Google didn't provide more detail. An option to hide the notch already exists in the developer settings of Android 9 Pie. It's not clear if Google was referring to this, or a separate, and hopefully easier to use, method for hiding the notch. Android phones from LG, OnePlus, and others allow you to hide the notch using software.

Instagram’s Strengthened Security Tools Reach Android App

Oct 9, 2018, 5:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today made a set of improved security features available to Android users. It integrated these same changes to the iOS app in August. Moving forward, it should be easier for people to verify their own accounts. Those who wish to verify their account can follow the steps in the settings menu. Instagram says not everyone who applies for account verification will receive it. Verified accounts will feature a blue checkmark, signifying the account is genuine. Perhaps more importantly, Instagram has added support for third-party authenticator apps. This lets people to add an extra layer of security. For example, a user could choose to rely on 1Password rather than SMS as part of a two-factor login. Instagram is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Google Rebuilds Its Home App to Simplify Device Control

Oct 9, 2018, 4:54 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced that a new version of its Google Home app will reach Android and iOS devices this week. The app has been entirely redesigned to ease the process of controlling various smart home devices, such as smart lightbulbs. For example, all the devices in a home will be visible in a single view, allowing people to control their devices without jumping between apps. It also lumps together similar devices like speakers, lights, cameras, thermostats, and more. The app now automates quick actions for important features, such as turning on lights or viewing cameras. The app brings home control when away from home. Users will be able to check on their house, adjust their thermostat, and more no matter where they happen to be. Moreover, Google Home allows multiple members of a family to access and control smart devices in the home complete with voice recognition. Google built Google Assistant into the app, as well, so people can tap the mic and say “Hey Google, dim the lights.” Google hopes this revised app will improve peoples’ control over and interactions with in-home smart products.

Hands On with the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL

Oct 9, 2018, 1:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google's flagship Android devices are here! The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL carry forward Google's vision of AI-boosted mobile computing. The phones offer larger displays and new cameras with gobs of new photo-processing power — all backed by Google Assistant. Here is our in-depth preview of Google's new phones.

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Google Reveals Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL with Bigger Screens, Better Cameras

Oct 9, 2018, 11:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a new batch of Pixel phones, including the Pixel 3 and larger Pixel 3 XL. The phones will come in sand, black, and white. Like preceding generations of the Pixel line, the Pixel 3 and 3 XL are made from a combination of metal and glass. The 3 has a 5.5-inch screen while the XL has a 6.3-inch screen. The phones feature improved cameras that work hand-in-hand with apps such as Google Photos and Google Lens. It includes Google's HDR+ for capturing rich, detailed images. The phone includes Google's dedicated Pixel Visual Core for processing images. A new tool called Top Shot captures images before the user presses the shutter button in order to ensure the best shot is taken. This feature has been on phones for several years. Another feature called Super Res Zoom to help with zoomed-in shot. Google says it merges slightly different photos to create brighter, cleaner images. The Pixel 3's Night Sight function which claims to negate the need for a flash. It uses machine learning to improve low-light shots and will come to the Pixel 3 and older Pixel phones next month. The Pixel 3 series includes a wide-angle front camera for better selfies. Other modes such as Portrait mode and autofocus gain new functions to perform faster. The new Pixel phones run Android 9 Pie and includes a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. Google is offering YouTube Music to Pixel owners for six months for free. The phones include a Call Screen function that is meant to screen calls with Google Assistant. It uses AI-based conversational tools to answer the phone and talk to the caller while the conversation is transcribed in real-time on the screen. People can read the transcription and pick up the call if they wish. Another tool called Flip to Shish will silence notifications when the device is flipped over on its face. The devices will be available for preorder later today.

Google Debuts New Chrome OS Pixel Slate

Oct 9, 2018, 10:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a slate-style, Chrome-based machine for productivity. Google says the Pixel Slate has a custom display and dual front-firing speakers for stereo sound. Custom audio algorithms create crisp highs and powerful lows. Google will give people a free three-month subscription to YouTube TV with their purchase of the Pixel Slate. The computer has 8-megapixel front and rear cameras that include tools such as portrait mode and a wide-angle lens on front for video chats. The Slate runs an all-new version of Chrome OS. The UI more closely resembles Android and is easy to use by hand. It is capable of running full-powered Linux and Android apps. The OS customizes the UI based on preferences and usage patterns, surfacing apps people are likely to open. Google Assistant is more deeply integrated in Chrome OS and can be used to search for restaurants or dictate emails. The Slate includes Family Link, Google's parental feature for controlling usage around the home. Virus protection is built in and the Pixel Slate includes automatic security updates. Google created a dedicated keyboard for the Pixel Slate. The Slate powers the keyboard via connector rather than Bluetooth. The folio-style keyboard features rounded, backlit buttons and a trackpad and can adjusted to any angle. Google's G Suite productivity tools are baked into the platform, as well as the full version of the Chrome browser with support for extension. The base model costs $599, while the keyboard costs $199 and the stylus costs $99. Google says all three will be available later this year.

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Google Home Hub to Serve As Nexus of Our Digital Lives

Oct 9, 2018, 10:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 9, 2018, 5:30 PM

Google today announced the Google Home Hub, a new smart display that features a 7-inch screen for use in the home. The Hub features the Google Assistant and dedicated tools to help people manage their other devices, content, and accounts. The Hub uses custom fabrics, features rounded corners, and comes in four different colors. Google specifically chose to not include a camera with the device so the Home Hub can be used in bedrooms and other private spaces. Voice-based commands will let people access YouTube, play music, search for recipes, control smart home gear, and much more. An ambient light sensor on the top ensures the screen is always optimized for the lighting conditions. Google has worked to create a step-by-step guide for recipes that can be controlled via voice. The idea is to let people access the recipe even when their hands are dirty during cooking. The Hub is based Android. It is available for pre-order starting today for $149 and will reach stores October 22.

Motorola Moto E5 Available from Best Buy for $100

Oct 8, 2018, 6:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola has made the Moto E5 available in the U.S. Best Buy is selling the phone with Simple Mobile service for $99.99. The Moto E5 features a 5.7-inch 720p screen and it is powered by a Snapdragon 425 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone accepts microSD memory cards up to 256 GB. The E5 ships with Android 8 Oreo and Moto Display for smart notifications and Moto Actions for shortcuts. The main camera has an 8-megapixel sensor at f/2.0 with autofocus, an LED flash, HDR, slow-motion, and full HD video capture. The front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor and selfie light. Other specs include a 4,000mAh battery with a 10W rapid charger included in the box. For connectivity, it has an FM radio, 3.5mm headphone jack, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and LTE. Neither Motorola nor Best Buy indicated if the E5 will be sold unlocked or with service from a different carrier.

Google to Limit What Apps Can Do with Gmail and SMS

Oct 8, 2018, 2:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it plans to limit what apps are allowed to do when granted access to users' Gmail accounts and SMS, contacts, and phone call logs. In Gmail, Google will curtail the types of apps that are allowed to seek permission for Gmail data. Google says only apps that directly enhance or improve email functionality will be allowed to access Gmail. Further, apps that do need access to Gmail will need to adhere to strict new rules and be subject to occasional security audits. Similarly, Google plans to limit which types of apps are allowed to seek users' SMS, call log, and contact information. Apps will need to show specific reasons for wanting this information. Only apps set as the default SMS and calling apps will be allowed to request such data. And users will be able to control this with more granularity. Last, Google plans to make contact interaction data unavailable to apps and developers. The company will make this change through the Android Contacts API over the next few months. Google encourages developers to review the new guidelines and update their apps accordingly. For end users, the result means apps will have less access to their data.

Metro Will Launch 5G Alongside T-Mobile

Oct 8, 2018, 11:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Metro by T-Mobile, T-Mobile's recently-renamed prepaid brand, will offer 5G service to customers at about the same time T-Mobile rolls out 5G to its postpaid subscribers. "When we talk about 5G for all, it's not just nationwide 5G service, but it's all shades of T-Mobile, magenta and purple," said Neville Ray, chief technology officer at T-Mobile, at an event today. T-Mobile says it will launch 5G in some 30 markets during the first half of 2019, and both T-Mobile and Metro customers will be able to access the faster speeds and lower latency. Metro's new service plans, announced earlier this month, are available starting today. Metro's $40 plan doubles the amount of high-speed data to 10 GB per month. The new $50 plan allows for unlimited data and includes Google One online cloud storage (Android only). The $60 plan includes unlimited data, Google One, and Amazon Prime. T-Mobile says Metro customers' data is prioritized below that of some T-Mobile customers when the network is congested. On all plans, customers who consume more than 35 GB per month may notice reduced speeds due to deprioritization.

Amazon's Alexa App Upgraded with Fresh Design as Alexa Tacks On New Skills

Oct 5, 2018, 2:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon has a number of updates to Alexa in store for phones and in-home connected devices. First, the mobile application for iPhones and Android devices has been given an entirely new look. The revised visual UI is easier to navigate. For example, under the devices tab each device is now listed separately rather than grouped by room. This lets people interact with multiple devices in multiple rooms from one screen rather than several. The fresh app is rolling out to the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store globally this week. Along with the redesign, Amazon has announced a new feature for developers that expands Alexa's skills. Skill connections will let two Alexa skills interact with one another, essentially letting one skill control a second skill. To start, the skill will be limited to printing, ride hailing, and restaurant booking. The idea is to ease the process of completing multi-step requests. With skills able to trigger other skills, it cuts the separate interactions required from two to one. For example, a skill that sells theater tickets could complete that purchase via Amazon Pay and then offer the buyer an Uber or Lyft to the theater without forcing the user to initiate a separate request. Amazon is offering skill connections as a developer preview right now. Amazon plans to add more types of skill interactions over time.

HMD Global to Update Nokia 6 and 8 Series to Android 9 Pie

Oct 5, 2018, 7:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HMD Global says it plans to update several of its phones to Android 9 Pie over the next couple of months. The company will boost the Nokia 6.1 and 6.1 Plus to Pie this month. The Nokia 8 and Nokia 8 Sirocco will receive the update in November. HMD's latest device, the Nokia 7.1, which goes on sale at Amazon, Best Buy, and B&H later this month, ships with Oreo but will get Pie shortly after release.

Instagram Slaps On a Nametag to Make Following People IRL Easier

Oct 4, 2018, 12:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today introduced a new customizable identification card called Nametag. The goal is to help people easily find the Instagram profiles of those they meet via their phones. Instagram users can personalize their Nametag with designs, colors, emojis, selfies, and stickers. In order to share the Nametag, two people will need to open Instagram on their phones while one scans the ID of the other. Instagram says people will also be able to share their Nametags via text, Facebook, and WhatsApp. Nametag is available globally on Android and iOS devices starting today. In related news, Instagram is exploring a new way for students to connect with one another. Instagram school communities lets students share school spirit and find/connect with other students and alumni. Students can add their university name, class year, and other details such as major, sports teams, and greek organizations to their profile listing. Communities will feature directories so people can sort by major, year, etc. Instagram is testing school communities in a handful of colleges around the country. It hasn't said when communities might become available more broadly.

HMD Global to Bring Nokia 7.1 with PureDisplay to US

Oct 4, 2018, 11:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HMD Global today announced the Nokia 7.1, a premium mid-range phone that targets people who want an affordable, yet powerful device. The 7.1 adopts the all-screen design approach. It has a 5.84-inch PureDisplay that includes full HD+ resolution in a 19:9 screen that supports HDR10. The 2.5D panel is made from Gorilla Glass 3 and will change the brightness and color tone automatically to match the surrounding light. The screen covers most of the phone's face, though it has a notch at the top to accommodate the earpiece and user-facing camera. HMD Global says the 7.1's 6000 series aluminum frame is diamond-cut and dual-anodized for a premium finish. Under the metal skin, the 7.1 is powered by a Snapdragon 636 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. Dual cameras with Zeiss Optics adorn the rear, including a 12-megapixel main camera at f/1.8 and a 5-megapixel depth-sensing camera at f/2.4. Together, they can capture portrait/bokeh images. The 8-megapixel selfie camera has its own AI-assisted features to help with facial recognition for masks, stickers, and more. The 7.1 can live stream "bothies" — or video from the front and rear cameras at the same time — directly to Facebook and Instagram. The camera app features Google Lens and Motion Photos built in. Other features include a rear-mounted fingerprint reader, Cat 6 LTE with dual SIM support, Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX, GPS, and WiFi. The phone includes an embedded 3,060mAh battery that supports rapid charging. The 7.1 charges via USB-C and offers a 3.5mm headphone jack. The device runs the Android One version of Android 8 Oreo, which means it is near stock and will receive three years worth of monthly security upgrades and two years worth of OS upgrades. Pre-sales for the midnight blue and steel versions of the Nokia 7.1 begin online via Best Buy, B&H, and Amazon on October 5 with an expected shipping date of October 28. The phone will reach Best Buy stores on November 5. The Nokia 7.1 costs $349.

Google Assistant Can Now Hail Your Lyft or Uber

Oct 4, 2018, 11:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made it easy to hail a ride by asking Google Assistant. Moving forward, people can say, "Hey Google, book a ride to the airport" and the Assistant will display a list of available ride services, such as Uber, Lyft, Ola, Grab, GO-JEK, and others. Assistant will also surface estimated pricing and wait times, as well as ETAs for the end destination. People can request a specific ride share service in the voice command if they wish, such as, "Hey Google, book a Lyft to the airport." People seeking a ride will then be asked to confirm the booking on their phone. This feature is available via Assistant on Android phones, iPhones, the Google Home speaker family, and any other Assistant-enabled speaker. Ride hailing via Assistant is initially available in English and only in countries where ride sharing is supported. Google will add more languages over time.

Twitter App Gains Data Saver Tool

Oct 4, 2018, 7:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter has updated its Android and iOS mobile apps with a new feature and several performance upgrades. With the new version installed, users will be able to activate a data saver mode, which Twitter simply describes as a way to use less data while scrolling through your feed. Twitter doesn't quantify how much data the tool saves. The update also makes managing group messages simpler, alters how people interact with polls using VoiceOver, and improves labels for specific sorts of advertisements. Twitter is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store. Twitter still offers Twitter Lite, which is a lightweight version of the app that prioritizes conserving data.

Google Overhauls Assistant on Phones

Oct 3, 2018, 12:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today unveiled an entirely new version of its Google Assistant app for mobile phones. Moving forward, Assistant combines the benefits of voice- and touch-based searches into a single user interface that allows people to interact with buttons, sliders, and other tools as they come. Google focused on giving Assistant bigger visuals, meaning things are easier to see and understand quickly. Revised software controls should help people control their smart home devices, such as thermostats and speakers. The messaging interface is now interactive so people can use their fingers to add commas, change words, or make other adjustments to text. Assistant on Android phones in particular providers easy access to users' day and feed. It will more proactively offer curated results based on the time of day, your schedule, and recent searches/interactions with Assistant. Last, Google is giving brands new tools to take advantage of phone screens for search results. For example, new thumbnails allow Starbucks customers to select items on the menu and Food Network has larger images with its recipes. Developers and brands can put Assistant and its results to work for them. Google Assistant is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.

Facebook Adds a Dash of AI to Marketplace

Oct 3, 2018, 7:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook believes artificial intelligence will benefit buyers and sellers who use Facebook Marketplace. Moving forward, Marketplace will rely on several AI-based features to improve the usefulness of the neighborhood sales tool. For example, Facebook will use AI to automatically categorize items and suggest price ranges. People who list a guitar for sale should see the item fall under the "musical instruments" category and at a price range based on similar items sold in the area. Sellers can tweak these suggestions if they wish. Facebook is working to bring AI functions to phone cameras. For example, people can take pictures of items they might like to purchase and then Marketplace's AI will seek similar listings in the area. Facebook says AI will eventually be able to help people complete outfits or home design projects by finding items that match. Last, Facebook is doing what it can to ensure users have a safe shopping experience. It detects and removes inappropriate items and content, offers buyer and seller ratings with feedback, and allows people to report items or content that violate its commerce policies. Facebook Marketplace is built into the Android and iOS mobile apps.

Facebook: 'No Evidence' Hackers Accessed Third-Party Apps

Oct 3, 2018, 7:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook says it has analyzed the data surrounding last week's attack and found no evidence to suggest the hackers used the login tokens to access apps using Facebook login. About 50 million users' accounts were left vulnerable due to a bug in the "view as" tool. Facebook reset the tokens of those 50 million, plus another 40 million users whose profiles had been used in a "view as" search. Facebook says resetting the tokens, which forced app logouts, protected customers. Moving foreword, the company is building a tool to let developers manually identify their own users so they may see who was impacted by this and other hacks. Facebook implores developers to use the official Facebook SDKs for Android, iOS, and JavaScript, which will automatically ascertain the validity of access tokens on a daily basis. It also suggests that developers log users out when they discover error codes showing invalid Facebook sessions. Facebook once again apologized for the hack and said its investigation is on-going.

Google's Voice Access App Brings Total Voice Control to Android

Oct 2, 2018, 2:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released a new accessibility app called Voice Access. The goal of the app is to help people with certain disabilities interact with their Android device using voice commands. Google says Voice Access delivers a completely hands-free experience, allowing people to talk to Google Assistant, navigate through apps, as well as compose and edit messages. Voice Access supports more fine-grained controls when compared to typical voice command apps. For example, people will be able to use their voice to "click" buttons and controls within apps, or to scroll and navigate around the screen. Users can start with an "OK Google" command to open their favorite messaging app, select the text field, dictate the message, and then edit the message before sending it. Voice Access will also work for those without disabilities. Voice Access is available in English globally starting today. Other languages will be made available over time.

Facebook Gives People More Power to Police Bullying

Oct 2, 2018, 2:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today made it possible for users to take more control over their own posts. Moving forward, Facebook users will be able to hide or delete multiple comments at once if they feel the comments made on their own post constitute bullying or harassment. This tool will reach desktop and Android users over the next few days and iOS devices in the coming months. Facebook is also testing a way for people to easily search for and block words deemed offensive. Moreover, users can now anonymously report others who are bullying or harassing people on Facebook. Facebook says this is meant to help protect the targets of harassment who may not be able to see the comments or take direct action. Facebook's community operations team will review reported posts and comments to determine whether or not the community standards have been violated. People who feel Facebook did not take action when it should have may ask for the offensive content to be reviewed a second time. Conversely, people who've been reported for bullying can appeal any decisions made by Facebook. Last, Facebook said it is taking more steps to protect public figures. Severe attacks that directly engage public figures will not be allowed. Any public figure who is the target of harassment can report the person or comments they do not want to see. Facebook will also let public figures ignore unwanted messages and block users without them being notified. Facebook hopes these changes make the social network a nicer place to engage with others.

Google Rolls Out October Security Patch with Essential Close Behind

Oct 1, 2018, 2:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today provided details concerning the October security update for Android. Google says the newest patch solves a number of vulnerabilities in the Android source code impacting the framework, media framework, system, and kernel. The most critical issue was centered in the framework and "could enable a remote attacker using a specially crafted file to execute arbitrary code within the context of a privileged process." As far as Google knows, none of the security lapses were exploited for any means by hackers. Google revealed these problems to its OEM partners a month ago. The company is making two updates available, one dated October 1 and the other dated October 5. These updates should reach Google's branded Pixel and Nexus devices over the next week or so. The company plans to distribute the patched code to AOSP within 48 hours. Following Google's announcement, Essential Products said it, too, is offering its own PH-1 Essential Phone the same security patches. Further, the update from Essential brings back support for notch controls. Owners of the Essential Phone can expect to receive the update in the next few days.

Google Maps' Latest Tools Target Commuting

Oct 1, 2018, 7:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today is making some additions to Google Maps that it hopes will help people get to work quicker and with less stress along the way. The app has added a "commute" tab that offers one-tap access to live traffic and transit details that are personalized for each person's specific commute. The tab can instantly show people if their commute will be normal or impacted by traffic or accidents. Google will proactively suggest alternate routes if there are delays in the way. Android device owners will receive real-time notifications and re-routes if problems occur while on the road. Maps now includes support for mixed-mode commutes, such as those that involve driving and walking, or walking and bus/train rides. Google will surface information about the time each leg of the trip will take and offer suggestions if one or more of the legs is running slow. Google will take all these factors into account to help it create a more accurate ETAs. Train and subway commuters gain new insight into their daily ride thanks to real-time bus/train data. Transit riders in some 80 metropolitan areas will be able to see exactly where their bus or train is in order to anticipate how long they have to catch it. In Sydney, Maps will even show how many seats are left on the train. Last, Google Maps is adding direct support for Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play Music so commuters can control their morning music right from Maps. This is meant to prevent people from toggling between apps while behind the wheel. Google says the new Maps is rolling out to Android and iOS devices this week.

Google Rolling Wear OS Out to Most Android Smartwatches

Sep 28, 2018, 12:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today began distributing the latest build of Wear OS to Android-based wearables. The platform, shown off earlier this year, dramatically simplifies the user interface with a focus on health and fitness, notifications, and Assistant-based search queries and commands. The new operating system should be available to the majority of smartwatches already running Android Wear or Wear OS. Google didn't say how quickly the new OS will be disseminated. Users can check for the update manually via the settings menu on their Android watch.

Preview: Honor 8X

Sep 28, 2018, 8:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Huawei's Honor brand is gearing up to announce the Honor 8X, a new mid-range Android phone with a large screen and a unique design. Huawei hasn't announced full details yet, but they did let us photograph it.

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Microsoft's SwiftKey for Android Will Translate As You Type

Sep 27, 2018, 12:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said its SwiftKey keyboard application for Android devices can provide real-time translations between more than 60 languages as users compose their message. This is made possible by the introduction of Microsoft Translator, which uses artificial intelligence to predict words and phrases as people type. "We wanted to make it really easy for users to be able to translate as they type and to be able to translate incoming messages," said Colleen Hall, senior product manager for SwiftKey, in a blog post. Microsoft believes the real-time translation feature will be helpful when people message friends, family, or colleagues who speak different languages. By integrating the tool directly into the keyboard, people no longer need to leave the messaging app when they want to translate languages. Moreover, the app will remember users' preferences for language pairs so people don't have to scan the entire list each time. Microsoft says the translation feature can work when offline as long as the Microsoft Translator app and accompanying language packs are also installed on the device. SwiftKey for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Google Maps Makes Planning Group Outings Simpler

Sep 27, 2018, 7:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has added a tool to Google Maps that simplifies the process of planning group get-togethers. Google says a long press on any destination adds it to a shortlist, which appears as a floating bubble on the side of the screen. After adding several places, the organizer can then share the list with friends through any messaging platform. Each person in the group will then be able to view the list, as well as add or remove locations and vote on the final destination. The new group meeting feature will appear in the Google Maps app for Android and iOS this week.

Google Bolsters Search Tool In Android Messages

Sep 25, 2018, 4:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has taken steps to improve the search functionality that's within the Android Messages application. Google says searching by contact or type of content should bring up a richer set of results. Moving forward, tapping on the search icon will bring up a short list of your recent contacts in addition to the search bar. For quick sorting, tap a name and Messages will reveal your messaging history with that person, including both private and group conversations. Photos, videos, addresses, and links will be included in the results. Using the search bar to seek out specific types of content, including photos or addresses should be simpler with this tool. Google says these improvements are rolling out to Android Messages this week.

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