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.
Messages by Google will come pre-loaded and be the default messaging app on all Verizon Android devices starting next year. T-Mobile made a similar announcement in March, as did AT&T earlier this month. That means all three top-tier mobile networks in the US have now standardized on Messages by Google as the default app for RCS. RCS is the industry standard for enhanced messaging, designed to replace SMS. RCS offers features like read receipts, higher-quality photos and videos, and end-to-end encryption for one-on-one conversations. Verizon is also working to enable RCS interoperability across all carrier networks, but has not yet committed to a timeline for that. Verizon continues to offer and improve its own messaging app, Message+, even though it will no longer be the default messaging app starting next year. Customers using Message+ will get "full access to RCS capabilities by the end of the year". Verizon is also teaming with Google "to provide a robust business-to-consumer messaging ecosystem using RCS." Verizon's announcement today is a huge step for the RCS standard, which has suffered a long and tortured road to full implementation. Although there's now a clear path to a seamless and consistent enhanced messaging experience for Android users in the US, Apple has yet to support RCS in iOS. This means enhanced messaging is not yet interoperable between Android and iOS devices.
Google has released Android 12 Beta 3, which includes two major new features. The first is an enhanced auto-rotate feature that uses the front camera and face detection to orient the screen correctly while the user is lying down. This feature uses the new Private Compute Core feature of Android to ensure all processing takes place locally on the device in way that protects user privacy. The other new feature is Scrolling screenshots, which lets users capture long content that does not fit on one screen, saved in one image, in a simple and standard way. Users simply take a screenshot in the standard way, then tap the new "Capture more" button. Users are shown a thumbnail preview of the full-length screenshot, with the option to crop to just the section they want to save. Android 12 is still in development and may be unstable. Consumers are advised to not install beta software on their primary phone. Beta 4, due in August, will bring "platform stability" for developers, meaning APIs will not change. Subsequent releases will focus solely on fixing bugs.
OnePlus has announced a new Android update policy for its phones. The company's flagship phones will receive three major Android upgrades and four years of security updates. This includes the OnePlus 8, 8 Pro, 8T, 9, 9 Pro, and similar phones going forward. All phones in the company's more-affordable Nord series will receive three years of security updates. Nord N series devices (N10, N100, N200, etc.) will receive one major Android upgrade, while certain other Nord phones will receive two major Android upgrades. OnePlus is making this new, expanded update commitment thanks to its decision to merge most operations with Oppo and its greater resources. OnePlus and Oppo have always shared a parent company and certain resources, but will be working more closely going forward. OnePlus promises that this "is a change that you will likely not even notice since it’s happening behind the scenes." Global OnePlus phones will continue to use OxygenOS, although it will share a codebase with Oppo's ColorOS. This efficiency enables the new update commitment.
Qualcomm has partnered with Asus for a new flagship-class phone called the "Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders". Asus will make, sell, and support the phone, which is intended for members of Snapdragon Insiders, Qualcomm's new fan club. Available in the US next month for $1,499, the phone features maxed-out specs in most regards and comes with a small bundle of high-end accessories. The phone has unprecedented support for essentially all 5G and 4G networks worldwide in one SKU. That includes all major US networks and all four mmWave 5G bands. It showcases Qualcomm technologies such as the Snapdragon 888 chip, Snapdragon Sound, Quick Charge 5, and 3D Sonic Sensor gen. 2 (for the rear fingerprint reader, which works even with wet fingers). Other specs include 16 GB of LPDDR5 RAM, 512 GB of UFS 3.1 storage, 6.78-inch Samsung OLED display with 144 Hz refresh and HDR10+, Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi 6E, 4,000 mAh battery, and four microphones. Its triple rear cameras include a 64 megapixel main camera with a Sony sensor and OIS, 12 megapixel wide/macro camera with Sony sensor, and an 8 megapixel 3x tele camera with OIS. It also shoots 8K video and has a 24-megapixel front camera. The camera app uses AI for auto zoom, Super Night mode, and lens distortion correction on the wide-angle camera. Other phone features include NFC, 65W fast charging, stereo speakers, Gorilla Glass Victus on the display, and a light-up Snapdragon logo on the back. It does not have wireless charging, a headset jack, nor an IP rating for water. Premium true wireless Bluetooth earbuds with ANC from Master & Dynamic are included. Also included are a 65-watt Quick Charge 5 charger (that can charge the phone to 70% in 30 minutes), custom bumper case, and two premium braided USB cables. The phone comes with Android 11 and Qualcomm promises four years of security updates. Qualcomm promises "zero bloatware" on the device. Qualcomm is currently "working with all US providers" to ensure phone compatibility, although the company stopped short of promising Verizon certification just yet. It comes in Midnight Blue with red accents and will be available in August, unlocked, from Asus' web site.
Google has updated the Passes feature in Android to specifically support COVID vaccination and test cards. This brings vaccine passport functionality directly into Android 5 and later. Although the functionality is part of the Google Pay for Passes API, these "COVID Cards" can be used even without the Google Pay app installed. Google Pay for Passes is the same API used for loyalty cards, coupons, gift cards, boarding passes, transit tickets, and event tickets in Google Pay. Starting today, authorized COVID vaccine and/or test providers in the US can access the new APIs and begin issuing COVID Cards that prove vaccination status or test results. A COVID Card can be accessed as a shortcut on the home screen. COVID Card data is stored directly on the phone and not accessible to Google. An extra security step is required to access a COVID Card, similar to using Google Pay.
AT&T and Google have forged an agreement to make Google's Messages app the default messaging app for all AT&T customers using Android phones. T-Mobile made a similar commitment in March, leaving Verizon as the only top-tier US carrier to not standardize on Google's Messages app for next-generation rich messaging using the RCS industry standard. AT&T's move will help ensure AT&T and T-Mobile customers can enjoy interoperable rich messaging among Android phones between the two carriers. RCS is a replacement for SMS that offers better group messaging, typing indicators, and encryption, among other features. RCS offers features comparable to Apple Messages. However, Apple has yet to support the RCS industry standard, so iOS does not yet offer interoperable rich messaging with Android phones.
T-Mobile's new REVVL V+ 5G will offer 5G for just $200 on both T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile this July. The T-Mobile-branded REVVL V+ 5G follows the REVVL 5G, which broke new ground by offering 5G for just $400 when it launched a little less than a year ago. The new model uses a MediaTek Dimensity 700 chipset paired with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage (expandable). It also has a 5,000 mAh battery with 18W fast charging and a large 6.82-inch display. It has NFC, a side-mounted fingerprint reader, and comes with Android 11. The rear cameras include a 16 megapixel main camera and 5 megapixel wide-angle camera. The phone is manufactured by Wingtech, a leading ODM company based in Hong Kong that has also manufactured phones for Samsung. The REVVL V+ 5G will be available first from Metro on July 12th, followed by T-Mobile on July 23rd.
Samsung today announced a number of specific features of its new smartwatch OS developed in collaboration with Google. That collaboration was first revealed at Google's I/O developer event last month. The new platform is based heavily on Google's WearOS, but will incorporate many technologies from Samsung's existing Tizen smartwatch software in order to deliver better performance, better battery life, and sensor readings that are both more accurate and more consistent. A new Samsung Galaxy smartwatch using the new software will be announced at an event "this summer". The watch will feature Samsung's One UI design to match the company's phone software. When users install an app on their phone that also has a watch version, the app will automatically be installed on their Galaxy watch as well. Certain data will automatically sync between phone and watch, such as world clocks and caller blocking. The watch will also support continuous heart rate tracking. Samsung has its own watch face design tool that it will release to Android developers later this year. Devloper APIs will continue to be Android-based, as with WearOS, and third-party apps will continue to be available via Google's Play Store. Samsung will continue to support its older, Tizen-based watches for three years from product launch date.
In a major win for Bullitt Group, T-Mobile will offer the CAT S62 rugged Android phone this summer. T-Mobile hasn't had any truly rugged smartphones in its lineup since it discontinued the Samsung Galaxy S8 Active in mid-2019. The only other CAT-branded phone to be picked by a major US carrier was the S48c, launched by Sprint late 2018 and offered Verizon business customers in early 2019. The CAT S62's rugged credentials include exceeding US military standards for high and low temperature, thermal shocks, salt mist, vibration and tumble. It's designed to survive 6-foot drops onto steel at any angle. It also meets requirements for potentially hazardous environments, certified to Non-Incendive, Class I, Division 2, Group A-D, T4. Its display is protected by Gorilla Glass 6 and responds to both wet and gloved fingers. It's rated IP68 to be fully submersible and washable. The 4,000 mAh battery can be charged via USB-C and Quick Charge 4, Qi wireless charging, or POGO pins on the back. Key features include a 48 megapixel camera, NFC, rear fingerprint reader, and a customizable shortcut button on the side. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor accompanied by 4 GB RAM and 128 GB storage, which can be expanded with a memory card. The 5.7-inch display sports full-HD resolution. It will ship with Android 10 and upgraded to Android 11 in the fall. It comes with Android Enterprise support and Bullitt promises security updates for 2 years. The CAT S62 retails for $498 and will be exclusively available at T-Mobile "this summer".
As part of a broad set of updates rolling out to most Android users this summer, Google is enabling two major new features in its Messages app. The first is end-to-end encryption for one-on-one conversations between Messages users. This means that when two users are both using the updated Messages app on Android with chat features enabled, their conversations will be encrypted so that no one — not even Google or their cellular provider — can see the content of your messages. The feature does not currently work with group conversations, nor when either party is using a messaging app other than Google Messages. Users can confirm that their conversation is fully encrypted when they see a small padlock icon added to the send button. The other new feature coming to Messages is the ability to "star" important individual messages within conversations. Starred messages are then collected in a new Starred category so they're easy to find later.
Beats has finally launched its first fully in-ear true wireless earbuds: the Beats Studio Buds. These $150 Bluetooth earbuds feature active noise cancelling (ANC) as well as transparency mode to let you hear limited background noise. And even though Apple owns Beats, the Studio Buds are designed to be fully "native" compatible with both Android and Apple devices, including one-touch pairing on Android and a companion Android app. They're are also compatible with the Find My services of both iOS and Android. The buds are rated IPX4 for sweat- and water-resistance. Class 1 Bluetooth offers extended range. Beam-forming mics ensure clear voice calls free of wind and background noise. Each bud houses a proprietary 8.2mm, dual-element diaphragm driver, that's optimized for better ANC performance. The buds also support Spatial Audio / Dolby Atmos when used with Apple Music. Each bud connects directly to the source device, meaning either bud can be used by itself. The buds themselves provide up to 8 hours of listening time, or 5 hours with ANC enabled. The included USB-C charging case boosts total playback time to 24 hours. Beats Studio Buds are available to order today, and come in black, white, and red.
Google has released the second beta version of Android 12, which introduces several key features not found in the first beta. A new "Internet" quick setting consolidates Wi-Fi and cellular connections into one simpler control for Internet connections. Also new are universal, system-wide indicators and toggle controls for the microphone and cameras. It's now obvious at a glance any time any app is accessing the mic or camera, and such access can be switched off for all apps with one tap. There's also a new pop-up notification when an app accesses the clipboard and it contains data from another app. Finally, the new Privacy Dashboard offers a timeline view of all recent app accesses to microphone, camera, and location. The beta is intended only for developers and not for anyone's primary device. Phone Scoop has observed a relatively high level of instability with this particular version installed on a Pixel 5.
Motorola today announced the moto g stylus 5G, a version of this year's moto g stylus with 5G and a larger battery, for $400. The new 5G model has excellent support for all 5G and 4G networks in the US, (except mmWave 5G.) The battery has been bumped up from 4,000 mAh to a whopping 5,000 mAh. The 5G model has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 chipset instead the Snapdragon 678 in the 4G model. Although the 480 is a 4-series chip, it's newer than the 678 and offers similar performance. The 48 megapixel main camera offers access to the full 48 megapixel resolution, and the fingerprint reader is located on the back instead of the side. Other specs and features are similar to the 4G model, including a huge 6.8-inch full-HD display, wide camera, macro camera, 16 megapixel selfie camera, fast charging, memory card slot, and headset jack. The software is Android 11 with a nearly stock Google interface. Added stylus-oriented software includes the Moto Note app, Coloring Book app, and a customizable shortcut bar that appears when the stylus is removed. The stylus itself has been redesigned to be easier to remove and replace, and has a new feature that can help you find the stylus if you lose it. New features in the camera app include Spot Color for video and Dual Capture, which combines video from the front and rear cameras. The moto g stylus 5G will come in Cosmic Emerald. AT&T, Cricket, T-Mobile, Metro, Boost, Xfinity, and Spectrum will offer a version with 4 GB RAM and 128 GB storage (launch timing and pricing TBA), while the unlocked version sold by Motorola (plus B&H, Best Buy, and Amazon) will up that to 6 GB RAM / 256 GB storage. The unlocked version goes on sale for $400 on June 14th.
Apple today announced iOS 15, the next version of its core software that powers iPhones. Version 15 is not a major overhaul, but does add a long list of new features. An early beta version is available to developers starting today, with a more-polished public beta coming "next month". The final version will launch in the fall, likely alongside new iPhone models. New features include:
- Revamped FaceTime with SharePlay: FaceTime will now support scheduled calls and web links for Android and Windows users to join calls. New features make it easier to share your screen or streaming media with everyone on a group call.
- Live Text: System-wide recognition of text and objects within images.
- Updated Wallet: Will support digital home keys, driver's licenses, corporate badges, hotel keys, and more.
- Updated Maps: Adds AR mode for walking directions, 3D highway interchanges while driving, and greatly enhanced 3D views in select major cities.
- Focus modes: The new Focus feature will let you create Work, Personal, Sleep, Do Not Disturb, and custom Focus modes. Each mode can have its own notification settings and filters, and even its own home screen with specific apps and widgets. iOS can intelligently suggest personalized settings for each Focus mode, but they can also be customized. The current Focus mode is automatically synced across Apple devices.
- Notifications Summary: Can collapse all "non-time-critical" notifications into a morning summary and an afternoon summary, for example. Messages with contacts are still surfaced as received. iOS prioritizes information in notification summaries using on-device intelligence. Outside of Summaries, notifications will also have a more visual design with large icons.
- On-Device Siri: Siri will now process voice recognition directly on-device by default, instead of sending your voice to the cloud. This change enhances privacy, make Siri much faster, and allows Siri to process certain simple commands without an Internet connection.
Arm today announced details of its v9 processor core designs, which scale from smartwatches to laptops and compose what Arm calls its "Total Compute Solution". The suite of designs includes several new Cortex CPU cores, several new Mali GPU (graphics) cores, and a new interconnect design to link the cores that's 15% more efficient than before. The new core designs are faster and more power-efficient across the board, while introducing new security features. The new flagship CPU core is the Cortex X2, which is 16% faster than the X1 it replaces. The new standard "big" core is the A710, which is 10% faster and 30% more efficient than the A78 it replaces. The new A510 low-power "little" core is 35% faster and 20% more efficient than the A55 it replaces. The A510 also suitable as a main core for wearables like smartwatches. On the graphics side, the flagship Mali G710 GPU core is 20% faster than the G78 it replaces. At the other end of the lineup is the Mali G310, which Arm claims is the most performant entry-level GPU, rendering the Android interface twice as fast as previous-generation GPUs. Arm licensees like MediaTek, Qualcomm, Samsung, and Apple are expected to announce chips using the updated Arm architecture by the end of this year, with the first phones using this technology reaching the market in 2022.
Qualcomm recently announced updatable NNAPI drivers in Android for new and existing Snapdragon chips. This means the software drivers that connect apps to the AI processing hardware of Snapdragon chips can now be updated easily and regularly via Google Play Services. This is similar to how Qualcomm recently made its graphics drivers updateable, but for AI. This will enable Snapdragon-powered Android phones to enjoy potential AI performance and feature gains over time, without waiting for a major OS update from the manufacturer. Apps that will benefit include Google Assistant and Google Maps.
Google today took the wraps off the new consumer-facing features of Android 12. The most obvious is "Material You", a new iteration of Google's Material Design. Material You offers an array of customization features, including color palette, line widths, and more. It can take colors from a photo. Material You will launch first on Google Pixel phones and throughout all Google apps, but your custom choices will eventually extend to all Google products you use. The notification shade and Quick Settings are also getting a major overhaul. This includes "more intuitive" notifications, and new Quick Settings widgets for Google Play, Google Home, and system-wide disabling of app access to the camera and/or microphone. Improved indicators clearly show when an app is accessing your camera and/or mic. A new Car Key feature will use NFC and UWB to enable your phone to automatically unlock your car as you approach it. The feature will also allow you to share a temporary digital key with a friend. Car Key will be available first on Pixel and Samsung phones this fall. Android 12 also has a more "playful" lock screen with "dynamic lighting" animations. Google has also changed the shortcut for accessing Assistant (again) to be a long press of the lock button. Google also promises performance improvements under the hood that should make the whole OS faster. A beta version will be available starting today for phones from 12 different manufacturers.
Google today revealed several new security and privacy features across its platforms, including Android. A new Locked Folder protects selected photos and videos with an additional layer of security. This feature is coming soon to Pixel phones, to be followed by other Android phones. In Search, a new option immediately deletes the last 15 minutes of search activity. Finally, Google's Password Manager is gaining a new option to import passwords from other password managers. Password Manager will continue to sync automatically between Android and Chrome on the desktop, but this integration will be "deepened". These features were announced during the keynote at this year's Google I/O developer event today.
Google this week announced new requirements for Android apps listed in the Google Play store to clearly disclose what user data the app collects, how it's used, how it's shared, how it's protected (such as encryption), and what choices users have in regard to that data. Also required is whether the app meets Google's requirements for family-friendly apps. The user choice section includes whether users have a choice in sharing data in the first place, and whether users can have their data deleted when the app is uninstalled. There will be an additional line for whether compliance with all of the above has been verified by an independent third party. App developers will be responsible for the accuracy of this information. If Google finds that a developer has misrepresented the data safety info they've provided, the app will be subject to "policy enforcement", after first being given an opportunity to become compliant. Developers can start submitting this info to Google toward the end of this year. It will be rolled out to users at the beginning of 2022, and become required for all apps in the second quarter of 2022. Apple launched a similar App Privacy section for its App Store listings last year.
ZTE today launched the Blade 11 Prime, the company's latest affordable Android phone for Visible. It includes wireless charging, a highly unusual feature for a phone that sells for just $192. The phone has a 4,000 mAh battery and also supports reverse (wired) charging. It has a 6.5-inch HD display, MediaTek Helio P22 processor, 4 GB RAM, and 64 GB storage. The main camera clocks in at 16 megapixel, plus an 8-megapixel wide-angle camera, depth camera, and 8-megapixel front camera. Other features include Android version 11 at launch, a textured back that resists fingerprints, side-mounted fingerprint reader, memory card slot, headset jack, and USB-C. The Blade 11 Prime is available starting today from both Visible and Yahoo Mobile.
Bullitt Group, the maker of Cat-branded phones, today announced the Cat S42 H+, a new version of its S42 rugged Android phone with antimicrobial protection built into its body. All exterior components have been blended with an antimicrobial silver ion additive called Biomaster during the manufacturing process, to help fight bacteria. Biomaster is proven to inhibit bacteria cells from replicating by over 80% within 15 minutes and 99.9% within 24 hours. Bullitt claims this enhancement makes the S42 H+ "the first fully and permanently anti-bacterial phone." The S42 H+ is also waterproof, washable, and tested to withstand soap, bleach wipes, alcohol, and hand sanitizer. The S42 H+ otherwise has the same specs and features as the original S42. The Cat S42 H+ will be available in the US next month for $299. Biomaster is a made by Addmaster, a subsidiary of Polygiene.
TCL today announced several new TCL-branded phones in its 20 series, including two models that will come to the US: the TCL 20 Pro 5G and the TCL 20S. The US launches will include major carrier partners. TCL has joined the Android Enterprise Recommended program, and all of its new 20-series phones are so verified. The TCL 20 Pro 5G is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G chip and comes with 6 GB RAM and 256 GB storage. The 4,500 mAh battery can be topped up with 18W wired charging or 15W wireless charging, a first in a TCL phone. The phone is similar to the well-received TCL 10 Pro, but with an upgraded Sony IMX582 main camera. That 48 megapixel camera has optical image stabilization (OIS), another first for TCL. The curved 6.67-inch AMOLED display has full-HD+ resolution and HDR10. The rear has a matching curved glass cover with no camera bump. The camera system also includes a 16 megapixel wide camera, 5 megapixel macro camera, and 32 megapixel front camera. The phone is capable of recording 4K video with both front and rear cameras, as well as video HDR. The phone has excellent support for all 4G and sub-6 5G networks in the US. Other features include Android 11, 3.5mm headset jack, memory card slot, NFC, Super Bluetooth, and in-display fingerprint reader. The TCL 20S is the US version of the new TCL 20L+. The 20S has a 5,000 mAh battery, 6.67-inch full-HD+ display, and a 64 megapixel main camera. Other cameras include an 8 megapixel wide camera, 2 megapixel macro camera, and 16 megapixel front camera. The display features circular polarization, making it compatible with polarized sunglasses. While the 20L+ will have a Snapdragon 662 processor, the 20S will have a different (but similar) processor, to be announced, one of the few differences between the two models. The 20S also has 6 GB RAM + 256 GB storage, Super Bluetooth, NFC, headset jack, and memory card slot. The fingerprint reader is located on the side, and the phone also has a dedicated Google Assistant button. Both phones will arrive in the US in "early summer", but pricing and other launch specifics are to be announced.
LG today announced that it will continue to issue Android operating system updates for three years for its premium phones, and two years for its lower-end phones. The pledge follows the news earlier this week that LG will stop making phones by mid-year. For premium phones, LG's commitment is "up to three iterations of Android operating system updates from the year of purchase". This applies to G series and V series phones released in 2019 and later, as well as the Velvet and Wing. Lower-end models include the K series and Stylo phones released in 2020 "will receive two OS updates".
Google has finally given the green light for navigation, parking, and charging apps for Android Auto. The new categories were announced last August and have only been available via beta programs before today.
The Supreme Court today ruled against Oracle in its bid to force Google to pay for implementing Java in the Android smartphone operating system (OS). Oracle owns the intellectual property and copyrights for Java, but Java is widely used throughout the open-source software community. In creating Android, Google created APIs that allowed developers to write Android apps using Java. Oracle claimed in court that these APIs amounted to copyright infringement, while Google argued that the APIs were covered by the legal doctrine of "fair use". Oracle was seeking over $9 billion in damages. While an appeals court found in favor of Oracle, today's Supreme Court ruling settles the matter in favor of Google. The decision was 6-2. The decision is also a relief for the open-source community and many smaller software companies.
Bullitt Group today announced the CAT S62 Pro, the latest in its line of ruggedized phones for field professionals. The company is releasing the US version today, which has excellent support for T-Mobile and Verizon 4G networks, and will also work on AT&T. The S62 Pro is the third CAT-branded phone to feature a FLIR thermal imager, and sports the most advanced thermal sensor in a phone to date with full-HD+ resolution, a high-end spec for this type of sensor. It's also the first CAT+FLIR phone with a sleeker design instead of the odd hump hat extended from the top of the S60 and S61. The camera software includes FLIR's newest algorithms for combining thermal and visible imaging in real time, with several options and adjustable intensity. The software also includes new "analytic and reporting features typically found in higher end, dedicated thermal imaging products", including the ability to generate PDF reports of thermal conditions. The phone is also rated IP68 & IP69 for water and dust, as well as MIL-SPEC for thermal shock, high & low temps, vibration, humidity, and salt mist. It's fully washable with soap. The screen is protected with Gorilla Glass 6 and works with gloves and wet fingers. The phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor with 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage (which is expandable). Other specs include a 5.7-inch FHD+ LCD display, 12 megapixel main camera, 4,000 mAh battery, and Quick Charge 4. Other features include 4K video capture, Android 10, NFC, fingerprint reader, and LED notification light. Bullitt promises an update to Android 11 and three years of security updates. The CAT S62 Pro is available today starting today for $699 unlocked.
T-Mobile is deepening its ties with Google in several new areas, including committing 100% to Google's solution for rich messaging based on the RCS standard. Going forward, all Android phones sold by T-Mobile will have Google's Messages app set as the default (RCS-based) messaging experience. T-Mobile will also be carrying and promoting more Pixel devices going forward, and pushing Google One "as the preferred phone backup and cloud storage solution". T-Mobile is also abandoning its own new live-TV service in favor of YouTube TV "as T-Mobile's premium TV solution".
Google recently announced the formation of the Android Ready SE Alliance, a collaboration between Google and the makers of "secure element" chips for phones and similar devices. The new initiative will enable all Android phone makers to more easily implement hardware security features that match the functionality and security of Pixel phones (which use Google's Titan M secure element chip). A secure element is discrete, tamper-resistant hardware that protects the integrity a user's data, keys, wallet, etc. The Android Ready SE Alliance has specific requirements to ensure that implementations are secure. The Alliance is also releasing specific software called SE Applets, which run on the secure element chips and implement specific features "in conjunction with corresponding Android feature releases". The first Applet is StrongBox, which simply stores and handles cryptographic keys. The next two Applets will be for digital IDs (including mobile driver's licenses) and digital car keys. Phone makers can choose secure element chips from any of the five participating hardware vendors: Giesecke+Devrient, Kigen, NXP, STMicroelectronics, and Thales.
Metro by T-Mobile customers now have access to T-Mobile Tuesdays, the rewards program that gives out freebies and special deals on a variety of products and services every Tuesday. Next week's T-Mobile Tuesdays deal is a free, season-long subscription to MLB.tv, a $130 value. T-Mobile claims that the combined annual value of T-Mobile Tuesdays deals is almost $1,000. To access the deals, Metro customers need to download the T-Mobile Tuesdays app, available for both iOS and Android.
OnePlus today announced the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro, its newest flagship phones. The 9 Pro is a true flagship-class phone with a QHD AMOLED display with variable refresh from 1 to 120 Hz, and IP68 water rating, starting at $969. The standard OnePlus 9 is priced more like an "affordable flagship" at $729, but keeps many high-end specs like a Snapdragon 888 chip, 50-megapixel wide-angle camera, 120 Hz display, and wireless charging. Both models include "Hasselblad Camera for Mobile", which tunes the coloring of photos in auto mode "to bring more perceptually accurate and natural-looking colors to photos". The phones also include a Hasselblad Pro Mode, optimized for professionals who prefer to capture in 12-bit RAW for post-processing. OnePlus and Hasselblad have established a long-term partnership that will extend to phone sensors and optics in the future.
- The OnePlus 9 sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip, sub-6 GHz 5G (including the forthcoming C-band), 8–12 GB LPDDR5 RAM, 128–256 GB UFS 3.1 storage, 4,500 mAh battery, Warp Charge 65T fast charging, 15W Qi wireless charging, 6.55-inch FHD+ AMOLED display with 120 Hz refresh and HDR10+, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth 5.2. Its main camera is 48 megapixel and can capture 8K video. A wide-angle camera clocks in at 50 megapixel and has a "Freeform" lens that reduces edge distortion. The wide camera doubles as a high-quality macro camera, and the camera app has a new Tilt-Shift mode. There's also an extra monochrome camera and a 16 megapixel front camera. Other features include Android 11, OnePlus' signature sliding alert switch, stereo speakers, NFC, and an in-display fingerprint reader. The lightweight frame is made from fiberglass-reinforced polymer. In the US, it will be available in two glossy finishes: Winter Mist (purple) or Astral Black. The base version is 8 / 128 GB for $729, with the 12 / 256 GB model going for $829 (in black only).
- The OnePlus 9 Pro builds on the standard model with numerous upgrades, including mmWave 5G, IP68 water resistance rating, aluminum frame, and 50W fast wireless charging. Battery and memory specs are the same. The display is slightly larger at 6.7 inches and has been upgraded with QHD+ resolution and curved sides. The display also features "Fluid Display 2.0", which automatically adjusts the refresh rate as needed from 120 Hz all the way down to 1 Hz, which saves battery life. This is made possible by an AMOLED display panel with a low-temperature polycrystalline oxide (LTPO) backplane layer. The phone senses ambient light from both the front and back, to automatically adjust both brightness and color temperature of the display. As for cameras, the main 48-megapixel sensor has been upgraded to a custom-designed IMX789 sensor, co-developed with Sony, with OIS. The 50-megapixel wide camera is the same, but a 3.3x telephoto camera has been added, with 8 megapixel resolution and OIS. The Pro also adds laser focusing and an extra microphone for audio zoom when recording video. The OnePlus 9 Pro be available in glossy Morning Mist (silver) with 8 / 128 GB for $969. The step-up 12 / 256 GB version will run $1,069 and come in Morning Mist or matte Pine Green.
Motorola starting rolling out the Android 11 update to its edge+ flagship phone today. The update includes one surprise feature addition: wired video output including a full windowed mobile desktop experience. Connecting the phone to a TV or monitor automatically launches a new software experience that Motorola calls "Ready For". It focuses on four areas: In addition to Gaming and the Mobile Desktop (which supports a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse), there are also Video Chat and TV modes. The Video Chat mode lets you pick between the main camera or the 16 megapixel wide camera, and works with all major video chat services, including Zoom, Teams, and Meet. The TV mode shows a dashboard of all your favorite video streaming apps. Motorola also launched a new accessory called the Ready For dock, which makes it easy to position the phone at the best angle for video chats, and can be mounted to a tripod.
Google and Apple have teamed with VaccineFinder.org — a project of Boston Children's Hospital — to add COVID-19 vaccine location information to both the Google Maps and Apple Maps apps. iPhone users can find nearby vaccination locations from the Search bar in Apple Maps by selecting COVID-19 Vaccines in the Find Nearby menu, or by asking Siri, "Where can I get a COVID vaccination?" On Android, users can search for "vaccines near me" or "covid vaccine (city name)" in Google Maps. The data includes over 20,000 vaccine locations in the US.
Asus today announced the ROG Phone 5, its newest flagship gaming phone, following the ROG Phone 3. The ROG Phone 5 brings the ROG Phone series up to date for 2021 with a Snapdragon 888 chip, Android 11, and 65-watt fast charging for its huge 6,000 mAh battery. The AMOLED display is also brighter and larger at 6.78 inches, and has an industry-leading 300 Hz touch sampling rate. The display specs are otherwise similar to the ROG Phone 3: 144 Hz refresh, HDR10+, and FHD+ resolution. The ROG Phone 5 will come in three versions. The standard model is available with 8 or 16 GB of RAM and 128 or 256 GB storage. A Pro model adds a small full-color display to the back, set at an angle, to show "customizable animations in response to a variety of system and in-game events". It's also available with up to 512 GB of storage. An Ultimate model steps up to 18 GB of RAM, and has a monochrome rear display. All three models use high-performance LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.1 storage. All three models also have sub-6 GHz 5G and will come in a North American version with support for nearly all of the 4G and 5G frequency bands used in the US, including band 77 for forthcoming C-band 5G networks. The ROG Phone 5 is the first in the series without an obvious air vent on the back for cooling, although Asus claims that its "GameCool 5" cooling system is "upgraded" to keep the processor from thermal throttling. The phone also has upgraded wireless, supporting Wi-Fi 6e and Bluetooth 5.2. A number of specs and features remain unchanged from the previous model, including the exact same array of cameras: 64 megapixel main, 13 megapixel wide, 5 megapixel macro, and 24 megapixel front camera. Other signature ROG Phone features remain, such as AirTrigger shoulder controls, front-facing stereo speakers, and an extra USB-C port on the side, for comfortable landscape gaming while charging. A 65W fast charger is included, and the phone also supports the Quick Charge 5.0 and USB-PD 3.0 fast charging standards. ASUS ROG Phone 5 series will be available in North America starting next quarter.
Apple has taken the unusual step of making it easier to switch from an iPhone to Android by launching a new web tool that helps you copy photos and videos stored in iCloud Photos to Google Photos. Available at privacy.apple.com, the service supports photos, videos, and basic albums, including a variety of file formats and "some" RAW files. The service does not support Smart Albums, Live Photos, and certain RAW files. Also unsupported are shared albums, photo stream content, and certain metadata. The process takes three to seven days, and Apple renames albums and videos to start with "Copy of ".
Esolutions has started selling privacy-focused phones preloaded with the /e/ OS in the US. The /e/ OS is based on an open-source version of Android 10 (LineageOS, specifically) without any Google-controlled services that would enable tracking and data scanning by Google or third parties. /e/ replaces Chrome with its own Chromium-based browser, Gmail with K-9 Mail, and has its own app store and cloud storage service. Many popular third-party apps rely on Google Play Services for important functions like push notifications. /e/ OS includes a dummy API called MicroG to ensure such third-party apps don't crash, but those features like push notifications remain non-functional. Esolutions has offered phones pre-loaded with /e/ OS in Europe for some time, but has just started sales in the US for the first time. There are two refurbished Samsungs to choose from: a Galaxy S9 for $380, or a Galaxy S9+ for $430. The phones come with a one-year warranty and the e Foundation says "We aim to support with at least 3 years of software updates and security patches." The /e/ OS is also available for download for a number of other Android phones.
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.