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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

Snapchat Works In Giphy Support, Debuts Tabs

Yesterday, 1:55 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Snapchat is pushing an update to its mobile app that adds several new features, including support for Giphy stickers and Tabs. With Giphy on board, Snapchat users can add GIF stickers to their snaps by tapping the sticker button. The GIF stickers can be placed anywhere on the photo or video, as well as resized and pinned in place. The Tabs tool is meant to help people keep tabs on their preferred stories. The Tabs section is built into the Friends and Discover pages. It lets people sift through the active stories and group chats shared by their friends. Giphy support is available in the latest version of Snapchat for Android and iOS, while the Tabs tool is rolling in phases over the next few weeks.

Google Pay Arrives to Fully Replace Android Pay and Google Wallet

Yesterday, 9:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released Google Pay, the revised payment application and service that replaces Android Pay. Google Pay encompasses most features of Google Wallet and Android Pay in a single app, allowing people to use Google Pay to make payments online and via mobile devices. Google Pay is already accepted on some apps and web sites, including Airbnb, Dice, Fandango, HungryHouse, and Instacart. Google expects Google Pay to become more widely available online quickly, as developers don't have to do much to alter their existing Google Wallet- and Android Pay-backed services for full Google Pay integration. Google Pay for Android features information about nearby stores, recent purchases, and access to rewards. A new tab helps users collect and organize their loyalty and membership cards. Google Pay supports mass transit payments in Kiev, London, and Portland, with more cities coming soon. The Google Wallet app is being rebranded to Google Pay Send and will soon allow people in the U.S. and U.K. to send/request money to/from their peers. Google Pay is available from the Google Play Store.

Nuance Puts Swipe+Dragon In the App Graveyard

Yesterday, 9:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nuance says its Swype+Dragon application for Android and iOS has reached end of development. "Nuance will no longer be updating the Swype+Dragon keyboard for Android. We’re sorry to leave the direct-to-consumer keyboard business, but this change is necessary to allow us to concentrate on developing our AI solutions for sale directly to businesses," confirmed Nuance to XDA Developers. Swype was an early leader in the swiping-keyboard space. It started as an independent app, but was later acquired by Nuance. Nuance continued to develop the app and eventually integrated the swiping keyboard with its own Dragon voice dictation technology. The space is competitive, however, and Google's own GBoard application has garnered quick adoption on many Android devices. Swype+Dragon is still available from the Play Store for the time being, but it will no longer receive updates.

Google Releases Lightweight Gmail Go for Low-End Android Phones

Feb 15, 2018, 4:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has made a light and quick version of Gmail available to select handsets. Gmail Go is a slimmed-down version of Gmail that works better on devices with limited resources or spotty network connections. The app consumes less space on devices and requires less storage for email messages. It includes many of Gmail's signature features, including 15 GB of online storage, notifications, focused inbox, spam protection, and support for multiple accounts (IMAP/POP). Gmail Go is free to download from the Google Play Store, though Google hasn't specified which devices are able to use it. The majority fo Google's "Go" apps are reserved for entry-level devices in emerging markets. Gmail Go is not compatible with many of today's high-end phones.

Google Maps for iOS Gains One-Tap Access to Commute Info

Feb 15, 2018, 12:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated Google Maps for iOS devices with new real-time tools to make finding information on the go even quicker. iPhone owners can now swipe up when using Google Maps to open three tabs: explore, driving, and transit. These tabs contain information about nearby restaurants, real-time traffic conditions, and train/bus schedules. These features have been available to Google Maps for Android since last year. Google Maps for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Microsoft's New Photos Companion App Acts Like AirDrop, But for Windows PCs

Feb 15, 2018, 9:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft's garage team has released a new application that lets Android and iOS users easily transfer photos from their phone to their Windows 10 PC. Photos Companion works in coordination with the Microsoft Photos app on Windows 10 PCs. As long as the iPhone or Android device is on the same network as the PC, users can transfer photos and videos directly from the phone to the computer over WiFi. The app makes use of a QR code in Microsoft Photos on the PC that users scan with the Photos Companion app to initiate the transfer. Photos Companion is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.

Samsung Halts Galaxy S8 Oreo Update Due to Reboot Bug

Feb 15, 2018, 9:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has pulled the Android 8 Oreo update for the Galaxy S8 after users reported random reboots. "Following a limited number of cases where Galaxy S8 and S8+ devices have rebooted unexpectedly with the Android 8.0 Oreo, we have temporarily stopped the rollout of the update," said Samsung in a statement provided to SamMobile. "We are investigating the issue internally to ensure that the impact to the affected devices is minimized and the rollout of the update can resume as quickly as possible." Samsung has been rolling out Android 8 slowly over the last few weeks, mostly in European markets. The update had not yet reached the S8 and S8+ in the U.S. Samsung did not say when it expects the make the update available again.

Facebook's Messenger Kids App Lands On Android Devices

Feb 14, 2018, 2:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook's messaging application for children, announced late last year, is now available for Android devices via the Google Play Store. Messenger Kids is a mobile app that gives kids under the age of 13 the power to communicate via text and video with approved family members and friends. The app works on smartphones and tablets, but is controlled through the parent's Facebook account. Messenger Kids was first made available to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, and later Amazon devices. The app is free to download and use.

YouTube TV Gains More Channels, But Price Goes Up

Feb 14, 2018, 9:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Subscribers to Google's YouTube TV service now have access to more content in more places for more dollars per month. The live TV and video service is adding a number of Turner-owned stations to its lineup, including Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, CNN, HLN, TBS, TNT, truTV, and Turner Classic Movies. Sports content from NBA TV and MLB Network will follow soon. The service launched with content from 50 channels. There are still glaring omission, particularly with respect to content for children, such as Nickelodeon. Google didn't say what the full new channel lineup is. YouTube TV has expanded is geographical reach to the top 100 markets around the country. Some of the most recent additions include Burlington, Champaign, Charleston, Columbia, Dayton, El Paso, Harlingen, Honolulu, Lexington, Mobile, Petersburg, Plattsburgh, Richmond, Scranton, Springfield, Syracuse, Wichita, and Wilkes-Barre. These content and market expansions come at a cost. Google plans to raise the price from $35 per month to $40 per month beginning March 15. Customers who sign up before then will be grandfathered in at the lower price. YouTube TV is available on Android and iOS phones and tablets, as well as the Apple TV and Roku players. Subscribers have access to live television, six sub-accounts, and unlimited DVR recordings.

ZTE's 2016 Axon 7 Flagship Gains Android 8 Oreo In Beta

Feb 14, 2018, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today said owners of the Axon 7 smartphone can take Android 8 Oreo for a beta test spin. People interested in testing the new system software will need to register with ZTE's Z-Community. The Axon 7 launched with Android 6 Marshmallow and has already been updated to Android 7 Nougat. ZTE says, based on customer requests, the build of Android 8 Oreo for the Axon 7 will be close to stock. The platform brings improved battery life to the Axon 7, as well as shorter boot times, picture-in-picture mode, notification dots, Google Play Protect, Android instant apps, and autofill for online forms. Android 8 Oreo should be available to Axon 7 owners starting February 14. ZTE did not say how long the OS will be tested by the public before Oreo is offered to all Axon 7 owners. The phone was originally sold unlocked for $400. It features a 5.5-inch quad HD screen, Snapdragon 820 processor, 4 GB of RAM, 20-megapixel camera, and a 3,140mAh battery.

Nokia 8 Now Receiving Android 8.1 from HMD Global

Feb 13, 2018, 3:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

HMD Global has begun to distribute Android 8.1 Oreo to the Nokia 8 smartphone, according to executive Juho Sarvikas. HMD Global makes and markets Android handsets under the Nokia brand. The Nokia 8 is HMD Global's flagship device. It has a 5.3-inch screen, aluminum build, 13-megapixel cameras with Zeiss optics, and a Snapdragon 835 processor. The company released Android 8 to its Nokia 5 and Nokia 6 handsets earlier this year. It indicated that Android 8.1 will arrive for both these devices in the near future.

VLC Video Player Adds Chromecast, HDR, 360-Degree Video

Feb 10, 2018, 11:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

VideoLAN this week updated its open-source VLC media player with a significant number of new features. VLC version 3.0 adds support for Chromecast, which lets people push video from their handset to any device that can receive casted content. Other additions include support for 360-degree video and 3D sound playback, HDMI passthrough, HDR quality video, a handful of new codes, and much more. VLC 3.0 is available for a variety of mobile and desktop platforms, including Android and iOS. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.

Chrome 68 Will Mark All HTTP Sites As 'Not Secure'

Feb 9, 2018, 8:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

In the interest of security, Google plans to call out web sites that don't adopt https. Later this year, version 68 of the Chrome web browser will proactively label web sites that don't make use of https encryption. The company has been casually marking such web sites, but will start to call them all out this summer. The goal is to encourage web developers to add https to their web sites, which will improve security for everyone. According to Google, over 68% of Chrome traffic on both Android and Windows is now protected, while over 78% of Chrome traffic on both Chrome OS and Mac is now protected. Fully 81 of the top 100 sites on the web use https by default. Google said it will adjust Chrome's user interface so users understand which sites are insecure and why they are insecure. Google says it has simplified its set-up guides to help web developers secure their sites with https.

Turing Robotic Industries Declares Bankruptcy

Feb 7, 2018, 8:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Turing Robotic Industries, a company that promised to create a sleek, secure smartphone nearly three years ago, has moved into insolvency. TRI was located in Finland and formed by some ex-Nokia employees. It gathered most of its funding from Chinese investors. The idea was to create a high-end Android phone made of "liquidmorphium" that would deliver secure communications similar to the Blackphone. After making promises — and failing to meet them — for over a year, the company did ship a Sailfish-based handset during the late summer of 2016. It later announced the Appassionato handset (pictured) with features such as a 5.5-inch screen, Android 7, and a Snapdragon 821, but the phone never made it to market. TRI CEO Syl Chao took to the company's Facebook page to ensure those who live near its facility in Salo, Finland, to not worry about its bankruptcy. "We will be posting the latest developments concerning the future of TRI in the coming weeks," wrote Chao. TRI owes more than $2 million to investors, to say nothing of the money owed to customers who preordered (and never received) its handsets.

Google Adds a Dash of Augmented Reality to Motion Stills App

Feb 6, 2018, 4:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Motion Stills application for Android devices with augmented reality stickers. The feature lets Motion Stills users place virtual 3D objects in their viewfinders when filming videos and/or GIFs. People need only touch a spot in the viewfinder and Motion Stills will stick a 3D object in that spot, adding it to the scene. Google says it uses the device's internal accelerometer and gyroscope, along with the tracked ground plane, to align objects and allow them to move. Google is able to do this regardless of the device's orientation without calibration and keep things parallel to the ground. Recorded GIFs and videos with stickers can be shared via most social networks. Motion Stills for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.

February Security Patch for Pixel 2 Phones Tweaks Performance Across the Board

Feb 5, 2018, 2:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made the February security patch available to its Nexus and Pixel devices. First and foremost, the patch closes a number of security holes in the code that left all the handsets vulnerable to certain types of attacks. Google plugged up issues in the kernel, framework, system, and in select Qualcomm components. The update also provides a number of feature updates specifically for Pixel 2 devices. For example, it boosts Bluetooth call quality, WiFi uplink performance, and battery performance. It also improves the camera, Android Auto, app compatibility, mobile data, and audio switching, and provides stability fixes. Last, as already mentioned, the February patch turns on the Pixel Visual Core in the Pixel 2 and 2 XL for better photography. The update is now live and rolling out to devices.

Huawei Kicks Off Preorders for the Mate 10 Pro

Feb 5, 2018, 11:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Huawei today starting taking orders for its Mate 10 Pro flagship smartphone. The handset is available for purchase online from a number of retailers, including Amazon, BestBuy, Microsoft, Newegg, and B&H. Those who preorder the Mate 10 Pro between now and February 17 will receive a $150 gift card from the associated retailer. The device itself costs $799 and comes in black, blue, gray, or copper. The Mate 10 Pro has a 6-inch 2:1 display, Kirin 970 processor with 6 GB of RAM, dual Leica cameras with portrait and monochrome modes, fingerprint reader, and Android 8 Oreo. The company had hoped to sell the device through U.S. carriers, but pressure from the government put the kibosh on carrier distribution deals. It is sold unlocked and is compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile. The Mate 10 Pro will ship starting February 18.

Intragram Adds 'Type Mode' to Stories

Feb 1, 2018, 12:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today expanded the feature set of its mobile app with a new text-focused way to create posts. The Type mode in stories let's people post just text with no underlying photo or video. The tool supports changeable background colors and fonts, and allows users to highlight words or phrases. Like other content added to the stories section, typed posts within stories will disappear after 24 hours. Type mode is available in the latest version of Instagram's app for Android and iOS devices. The change coincides with new advertising behaviors. Instagram today also gave brands more options to cram advertisements into the app. Specifically, brands can now create multi-part stories that require multiple taps to skip past when scrolling through stories. Users can expect to see the expanded advertising format appear in Instagram stories in the coming weeks.

OnePlus 5T’s Android 8 Oreo Update Is Here

Jan 31, 2018, 10:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

OnePlus today begain pushing OxygenOS 5.0.2, which includes Android 8 Oreo, to the OnePlus 5T handset. As expected, the Oreo update contains notification dots, picture-in-picture, and autofill tools in Chrome. This update for the 5T also packs security patches, general bug fixes, and a new design for the Quick Settings screen. OnePlus says OxygenOS 5.0.2 also updates the file manager, weather, and gallery apps, and boosts the launcher to version 2.2. According to OnePlus, some users will see the update as soon as today though the bulk of users will see it over the next few days. The 5T is OnePlus’ flagship handset.

HMD Global Pushing Android 8 Oreo to Nokia 5 and Nokia 6

Jan 31, 2018, 8:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HMD Global is delivering an Oreo treat to owners of the Nokia 5 and Nokia 6 smartphones. The company said it has begun pushing Android 8 to both handsets. Android 8 Oreo includes notification dots, picture-in-picture, quicker boot times, autofill passwords, Google Play Protect scans, and the January 2018 security patch. HMD Global said the update will roll out in phases over the next few weeks. HMD Global makes and markets phones under the Nokia brand.

Essential Says Skipping Android 8.0 for Android 8.1

Jan 31, 2018, 8:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential Products said via its Twitter account that it will not update the Essential Phone to Android 8.0 Oreo. Instead, it intends to update the handset directly to Android 8.1. The company said it "discovered several stability issues" in Android 8.0 that gave it cause for concern. It will instead focus its efforts on Android 8.1. It expects to release the Android 8.1 beta early next month and will go from there. Essential hopes customers won't mind waiting an extra few weeks for the system update.

Twitter Says It Has Improved the Way It Crops Images

Jan 26, 2018, 8:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Photos that appear on Twitter should begin to look better over the coming weeks. The company says it has changed the algorithms it uses to automatically crop images and the results are much improved. Before this week, the company used a face-detection method to determine which portion of the image to show in users' feeds. Twitter eventually came to realize not all images contain faces, and even when they did the face-detection method sometimes focused on the wrong face or region of the photo. Moving forward, the company is employing a new method in determining how to crop photos. It is focusing on salient image regions, which are areas of high-contrast that contain objects such as people or animals that human eyes often seek first when viewing pictures. Scanning image saliency is often slow, so Twitter created several new techniques, called knowledge distillation and pruning, to speed up the process. The result, says Twitter, is a system that can scan photos for saliency in real-time as users post them. Photos with better cropping will appear on Twitter.com, as well as on the Android and iOS Twitter apps.

Google's Files Go Storage App Now Works with Tablets

Jan 26, 2018, 8:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has improved the reach of its Files Go app, a utility that's meant to help people manage the limited storage space of mobile devices. First, the app is now compatible with SD cards. Users can filter through and locate files stored on SD cards with a simple tap in the file finder. Second, Files Go now runs on tablets. The app functions the same way on Android slates as it does on Android smartphones, making it possible to share files from one device to the other simply and quickly. Third, and last, Files Go users can now customize which apps open specific files. A new "open with" flow gives people more control over the way files interact with other applications. Google believes these new features will improve the experience of managing device-side storage. Files Go is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Android Wear to Gain Android 8 Oreo Notification Dots

Jan 25, 2018, 1:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated the Android Wear SDK for developers and revealed several new features that are headed to its smartwatch platform later this year. Primarily, Android Wear will add a notification indicator to all watch faces. The indicator will appear as a small dot at the bottom of the watch face. The dot indicator will be displayed by default if/when there are unread notifications in any app on the watch. Developers can use the Android Wear SDK 2.2.0 and revised emulator to ensure the dot works with the design of their app. Google says developers can disable the notification dot for their watch face or app if it doesn't fit with their design. Those who choose to use it can configure the color of the dot and ring to suit their needs. Android Wear SDK 2.2.0 makes improvements to permission handling with a revised ComplicationDrawable mechanism, and developers will have more control over how complications are refreshed on the watch face. For example, developers can choose to refresh their face every minute, rather than every second, which should help with battery life and rendering images within the complication. Google says these and other features will be available to end users in Android Wear 2.9 later this year. For now, developers can download the refreshed SDK and make use of the added tools as they update their smartwatch apps.

Chrome 64 for Android Stops Ads from Opening New Tabs

Jan 25, 2018, 9:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google this week made Chrome 64 available to Android devices and added several new tools to the mobile browser. Primarily, Chrome 64 prevents web sites with aggressive advertisements from opening new windows or tabs without the user's permission. Google says the refreshed browser also gains stability and performance improvements. Chrome 64 will reach all users over the next few weeks. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Project Fi Subscribers Gain Smart Replies in Android Messages App

Jan 24, 2018, 4:43 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is bringing the smart reply feature from its Gmail app to the Android Messages app. The tool automatically generates several responses to incoming messages, which users can select and send with a single tap. The feature will first reach Android Messages on Project Fi smartphones. That includes Nexus and Pixel handsets running Android 8.x Oreo. Google didn't say if or when smart replies would reach Android Messages on other devices. The update is free to download from the Google Play Store.

FitBit Says Pebble Owners Will Get Service Through June 30

Jan 24, 2018, 4:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

FitBit today extended the life cycle of the Pebble smartwatch by six months. In December 2016, when FitBit acquired certain assets from Pebble, it said it would support Pebble smartwatches through the end of 2017. Today, the company said it would give Pebble smartwatch owners another six months, keeping most services up and running through June 30, 2018. After June 20, the Pebble app store, the Pebble forum, voice recognition features, SMS and email replies, and timeline pins from third-party apps will all cease to work. Other hardware functions will remain intact. Pebble said the Pebble mobile app will remain functional with Android 8.1 Oreo and 11.x, respectively, but warned that future updates to Android and iOS may break any remaining Pebble Watch functions. Despite the reprieve, FitBit is asking Pebble Watch owners and developers alike to move on and adopt the FitBit Ionic smartwatch. FitBit is offering owners of the Pebble Watch a $50 discount off the purchase of an Ionic watch.

Chrome to Support HDR Video Playback

Jan 23, 2018, 5:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today provided an update on the progress it has made with the Chrome browser over the last year and offered a peek at some features that will arrive later this year. To start, Chrome now supports play/pause, rewind, and fast forward controls for audio and video. The browser handles picture-in-picture playback on Android, and improved audio/video controls on both the lock screen and notification shade. The browser is able to mute web sites and soon will let people customize which sites are allowed to autoplay audio and video content. Google has already begin adding support for high dynamic range video content to Chrome for Windows 10 devices, and will expand HDR video playback to more platforms soon. HDR content of course offers more vibrant colors and darker blacks. Last, Google is prepared for the official release of virtual reality on the web, which it has been testing for the better part of a year. Google said HDR video and VR are coming to Chrome later this year. HDR and HDR+ content can be played back on a handful of smartphones, such as the LG V30 and the Samsung Galaxy Note8.

LG Aristo 2 for MetroPCS Packs More RAM

Jan 23, 2018, 12:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 24, 2018, 2:47 PM

MetroPCS recently added the LG Aristo 2 to its lineup of inexpensive Android handsets. This device is a minor update to the original Aristo. It improves the memory from 1.5 GB to 2 GB, adds support for LTE band 66, and steps up to dual-band Wi-Fi. It also swaps the original’s silver color for black. Other than these changes, the Aristo 2 carries over all the features of the original Aristo, including a 5-inch HD screen, 1.4 GHz quad-core processor, and 16 GB of internal storage. The phone includes a 13-megapixel main camera with flash and a 5-megapixel selfie camera. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat. The LG Aristo 2 is available from MetroPCS for $59 after a mail-in rebate. The original Aristo is still available from MetroPCS for $49.

Instagram Users Can Now Slap GIFs On Top of Their Stories

Jan 23, 2018, 11:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today announced several new features heading to its mobile app that will improve the experience of sharing stories. To start, users can now place GIFs on top of any photo or video shared via their stories. Instagram says hundreds of thousands of GIFs are available thanks to new integration with GIPHY. Further, Instagram users will soon be able to upload images and video of any shape or size to their story. As is it today, content shared via stories is limited to the portrait orientation. Support for GIFs is available in Instagram v29 for Android and iOS today. The improved support for new photo/video shapes within stories will arrive in a few weeks. Earlier this month, Instagram made it possible for users to share presence and/or status within the DM feature. People can see when their friends were last active in the app. This feature is turned on by default, meaning those who don’t want to share their activity with others will need to dive into the settings menu to deactivate the function.

Integral Debuts 512 GB MicroSD Card

Jan 23, 2018, 8:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Integral has announced what is the world's first 512 GB microSD card for smartphones, tablets, cameras, and other devices. Until this week, the highest-capacity card, 400 GB, was sold by SanDisk. Integral's new offering, called the 512 GB microSDXC V10 UHS-I U1 card, includes Class 10 high-speed video transfers for capturing HD video and writing it directly to the memory card. The card is robust, meaning it is waterproof, and it ships with an SD card reader so it may be used with PCs. Most of today's flagship Android devices support cards up to 2 TB, though no such cards yet exist. Integral said its new 512 GB microSD card will reach stores in February, but it did not reveal pricing. By way of comparison, SanDisk's 400 GB card retails for $250.

Android 8.1 Phones Gain Public WiFi Speedometer

Jan 22, 2018, 5:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is giving Android devices a new tool to help users decide whether or not to connect to public WiFi networks. "Public Wi-Fi can be spotty," explained Google in a Tweet. "For the first time, Android Oreo 8.1 lets you take out the guesswork and see the speed of networks before you hit connect." Visible networks will reveal both strength and speed. Signal strength will be indicated by the WiFi icon, with a fuller icon meaning a stronger signal. Speed will be labeled explicitly: slow, OK, fast, or very fast. Google says slow connections are good enough for WiFi calling and messaging while OK connections can handle social networks and streaming music. Fast connections should permit streaming most video, while very fast connections will offer high-quality streaming across the board. Users can turn the tool off if they wish. The update is being made available to devices running Android 8.1, which for now is limited to the Nexus 5x, Nexus 6P, and Pixel series.

Sprint's U11 Earns Its Oreo Treat Starting Today

Jan 22, 2018, 8:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC said that Sprint will begin pushing the Android 8 Oreo system update to its variant of the HTC U11 starting today. The news was shared by HTC executive Mo Versi on Twitter. Android 8 Oreo includes notification dots, picture-in-picture, and auto-fill. The new code from HTC also includes other bug fixes and tweaks. Though the update is available today, it may take up to a week to reach all users. The unlocked and T-Mobile variants of the U11 were updated to Android 8 late last year, as were most variants of the HTC U11 Life. HTC still plans to distribute Android 8 Oreo to the HTC 10 and U Ultra.

Amazon’s Alexa App Adds Support for Voice Commands

Jan 19, 2018, 1:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 19, 2018, 1:52 PM

Amazon has updated its Alexa mobile app for Android devices with the ability to support voice requests. Until today, the app was merely a tool used to manage in-home, Alexa-powered devices such as the Echo and Echo Dot. Now, Android smartphone owners can issue voice commands to Alexa from their smartphone in order to access playlists or tap into Alexa’s various skills. The app does not support wake word functionality, which means people will need to open the app in order to make voice-based requests. The updated Alexa app with voice control is available from the Google Play Store and the Amazon App Store. An update for Alexa for iOS devices is still in the works. Phone makers HTC and Huawei have already taken steps to add Alexa to their devices, such as the U11 and Mate series handsets. This update brings Alexa voice functionality to devices without special hardware requirements. Alexa is free to download.

Cricket Offering Free LG and Alcatel Phones to Switchers

Jan 18, 2018, 9:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today rolled out a new promotion that will give free phones to people who switch from another network. The phones on offer are the LG Fortune and the Alcatel Verso, entry-level Android handsets. People who switch can score the two free phones as well as two lines of unlimited service for $80 per month. Families of four can earn free phones, too, with a monthly service bill of just $100 for unlimited data. In this case, unlimited data is limited to 3 Mbps and video is limited to standard definition. Those who exceed 22 GB of data per month will see speeds slowed for the remainder of the billing period. The free phone promo is available through April 12 or while supplies last.

Huawei Latest to Adopt Google's RCS-Based Messages App

Jan 18, 2018, 8:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said Huawei has committed to using Android Messages, the search company's RCS-based messaging service, as the default SMS/MMS tool on its phones. RCS, a global standard, includes advanced messaging features such as texting over WiFi, group chat, high-resolution photo sharing, and read receipts. Huawei joins a long list of phone makers, carriers, and even brands that have added RCS to their messaging services. In the U.S., Sprint has adopted Google's RCS, as have phones from LG, Motorola, Sony, HTC, ZTE, and Kyocera. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon continue to use their own messaging services, though RCS-like features are included when people message others on the same carrier. Samsung has adopted its own RCS-based messaging app, but its use is limited to select carriers overseas. Android Messages supports normal SMS protocols, meaning it can interact with any and all devices whether or not RCS is on board. In addition to adopting RCS, Huawei device owners will be able to make video calls directly from Android Messages through carrier ViLTE and Google Duo. Last, Google and Huawei are working together to offer the Jibe RCS cloud and hub solution via Huawei's telecommunications services, which will broaden the reach of RCS to more users around the world over time.

Google Says Bug Fix for Chromecast WiFi Issue On the Way

Jan 17, 2018, 5:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Responding to reports of poor WiFi performance in homes with Chromecast devices, Google plans to issue a patch that should resolve the issue. "We’re aware of an issue where Chromecast built-in devices may be affecting WiFi network performance," said Google. "In certain situations, a bug in the Cast software on Android phones may incorrectly send a large amount of network traffic which can slow down or temporarily impact WiFi networks." Google says the bug primarily affects those who have an Android handset and a device with Chromecast built in, such as a Google Home product, running on the same WiFi network. Google says it has identified the problem and will roll out a patch through Google Play Services beginning January 18. Until then, the company suggests people experiencing slow WiFi reboot their Android phone and update their WiFi router's software.

Cricket Wireless Scores the $30 Alcatel Verso

Jan 16, 2018, 4:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless recently added the Alcatel Verso, a minor upgrade to the Alcatel Ideal Xcite, to its lineup of entry-level Android handsets. This $30 smartphone offers low-end specs to keep the price down. It starts with a 5-inch FWVGA (854 x 480) display with scratch-resistant Dragontrail Glass. The phone is powered by a 1.1 GHz quad-core processor with 16 GB of storage and support for memory cards up to 128 GB. The main camera boasts a 5-megapixel sensor with flash and HD video capture while the front camera touts a 2-megapixel camera. Other specs include a 2,050mAh battery, LTE with HD voice and mobile hotspot, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, and WiFi. The Alcatel Verso runs Android 7 Nougat. The phone is available online from Cricket Wireless for $30 for new and existing customers.

Sprint's Direct Connect Plus PTT Service Is Now Live

Jan 16, 2018, 10:58 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint recently launched its Direct Connect Plus push-to-talk service. Direct Connect Plus powers walkie-talkie style conversations with instant connections between users. The service relies on Kodiak's LTE network-based technology, rather than Sprint's discontinued iDEN network. It supports one-to-one and group conversations. Features include presence status, support for tablets, and corporate control over contacts and groups. Sprint's Direct Connect Plus service is available to most Android and iOS smartphones and tablets via mobile app for $5 per month. Several handsets in Sprint's line-up, including the Kyocera DuraXTP, DuraForce Pro, and DuraTR, include physical PTT buttons and native support for Direct Connect Plus. The service is aimed at business customers.

Facebook's Messenger Kids App Reaches Amazon Devices

Jan 12, 2018, 8:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook's messaging application for children, announced late last year, is now available from the Amazon App Store. The application can be installed and used on Amazon's Fire tablets. Messenger Kids is a mobile app that gives kids under the age of 13 the power to communicate via text and video with approved family members and friends. The app works on smartphones and tablets, but is controlled through the parent's Facebook account. Messenger Kids was first made available to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. The app has yet to reach Android devices, though it is expected to soon. The app is free to download and use from Amazon.

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