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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.

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OnePlus Pushing Android 9 Pie to the OnePlus 6

Today, 10:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

OnePlus today began delivering Android 9 Pie to its flagship phone, the OnePlus 6. The company had been testing a beta version of the new operating system from Google for several weeks. Android 9 Pie carries with it a brand new user interface, adaptive battery support, and revised gesture navigation. It adds a reworked Do Not Disturb mode, as well as a new Gaming Mode. The update also improves text and call notifications, and allows people to adjust the accent color. Last, the update includes the September security patch from Google. Android 9 Pie is free for owners of the OnePlus 6 to download and install. The company is rolling it out over the next few days.

Verizon Launches the GizmoWatch for Kids

Yesterday, 7:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today announced the GizmoWatch, a second-generation smart wearable that targets children ages 3 to 11. The device is primarily meant to serve as a location tracker for parents. Using the free Android and iOS apps, parents can view their child's real-time location, set geo-fences, and receive alerts should the child stray outside of designated zones. Parents can also control the device's uptime and ensure that it is quiet during school hours. The wearable runs on Verizon's LTE 4G network and can receive calls from up to 10 parent-approved numbers. The GizmoWatch includes 20 preset text messages that kids can send to their contacts. Kids will be able to track their steps, as well as use a voice-changer app for fun. Verizon says the GizmoWatch battery lasts between three and four days. The GizmoWatch, available starting today, costs $180 and requires a $5 monthly fee for connectivity.

Apple Music for Android Adds Support for Android Auto

Wednesday, 4:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Wednesday, 4:26 PM

Apple has updated its Apple Music application for Android devices and improved the app's usefulness in the car. Android device owners can now access their Apple Music service through the Android Auto user interface in the car. Apple Music also offers search by lyrics using a few words to find songs. The app tosses in a new artist page, letting people view artist information and play artist's hits with a tap, and the friends mix, which shows a playlist of songs liked by friends. Last, Apple Music for Android now includes the Top 100 songs from around the world. Apple Music is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Google and T-Mobile Improving 911 Call Location Accuracy

Wednesday, 9:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google and T-Mobile are working together to ensure that T-Mobile customers' location is more accurately pinpointed when calling 911 emergency services. About 80% of the annual 240 million 911 calls in the U.S. are made via cell phones. Where landlines can point to an exact address for emergency services, cell phones often provide only a general location that can be off by hundreds of feet. Google and T-Mobile have been looking to solve this problem for four years. Moving forward, Android devices running on T-Mobile's network will use the RapidSOS system. RapidSOS's internet protocol-based pipeline can share location data with 911 centers quickly and securely. This newer system integrates with 911 centers' existing software to more finely pinpoint location. This user location data cannot be used for non-emergency purposes and 911 centers will only have access to location during 911 emergency calls. RapidSOS is operating in about 1,000 of the country's 5,700 911 call centers. RapidSOS is available to all 911 centers, though there's no word on when the rest will adopt it. By law, wireless network operators are required to locate callers within 50 meters 80% of the time, but not until 2021. Google and T-Mobile claim RapidSOS reduces the average location radius from more than 500 feet down to 122 feet. This is within the range mandated by the FCC. Apple adopted RapidSOS with the release of iOS 12, allowing iPhones to provide similarly accurate location data to 911 call centers.

Google to Provide Android to Nissan, Renault, Mitsubishi Cars

Tuesday, 9:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has partnered with the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, which plans to embed the Android operating system in cars starting in 2021. The Alliance will add Android to its cars' dashboard navigation system. It will feature Google Maps with turn-by-turn navigation, access to automotive apps in the Google Play Store, as well as the ability to answer calls/texts, control music playback, perform searches, and issue voice commands via Google Assistant. In addition to the in-car integrations, the Alliance plans to add Google cloud-based systems to further enhance their cars through unique user interface elements and features specific to each of the three brands. This UI will be build on top of Android. Moreover, the Alliance Intelligent Cloud will offer secure connectivity, data management, and over-the-air upgrades and remote diagnostics. The Alliance said the system will be compatible with both Android and iOS mobile devices. The auto brands didn't say which models might be first to ship with Android Auto on board.

Google Search Gains Thumbnails to Help Sort Results

Tuesday, 8:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated its mobile search tool to include thumbnail images that accompany the results. The basic idea is to help people easily identify which results match their actual query. For example, searching for "bear" turns up results for the animal and the Chicago Bears football team, while searching for "tiger" turns up results for the large cat and Tiger Woods. The accompanying thumbnails make it easy to differentiate between results so people can find the exact information they want. The new thumbnail images are available in Google Search for Android and iOS.

Google Adds a Dash of AI to Its Sound Search Song Seeker

Monday, 7:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated Sound Search with some of the neural network-backed AI found in its Now Playing tool. Now Playing debuted on the Pixel 2 in late 2017. The always-listening feature automatically recognizes songs and shows the name on the ambient display — all without pinging a server. Google was able to crunch the fingerprints of some 50,000 songs and store them on the Pixel phones without taking up much space. The result is an incredibly quick way to learn the artist and title for many popular songs. Google discovered that this song fingerprinting method was far more efficient than what it used in Sound Search, which relies on listening via the microphone, sending a sound sample back to Google's servers, performing the search, and then returning the results to the phone. Moving forward, Sound Search uses the same fingerprinting technology found in Now Playing with the full power of its server-side processing. It is accessible through the Google Search or Google Assistant apps on Android phones. Users can start a query and, if music is playing nearby, tap the "What's this song?" tool that pops up. Alternately, people can simply ask "Hey Google, what's this song?" Google says the new AI-powered processing on its servers is much faster and more accurate than before. The new Sound Search should already be available to most Android phones.

Google Accidentally Changed Battery Settings On Some Phones

Sep 15, 2018, 10:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A number of people running Android 9 Pie have noticed over the last week that the battery saver feature has been mysteriously turned on. Google says this was an accident. The incident impacted the Pixel phones, OnePlus 6, Nokia phones, Essential Phone, and several other devices with Pie installed. The battery saver prevents apps from updating in the background, turns off location services when the phone is sleeping, and delays some notifications. "This was an internal experiment to test battery saving features that was mistakenly rolled out to more users than intended," explained Google via Reddit. "We have now rolled battery saver settings back to default. Please configure to your liking." Google apologized for the confusion. Google and Apple have the ability to change device settings and kill apps remotely. The idea is to protect devices from certain types of threats. That Google accidentally changed the settings of phones being used by consumers has left some troubled.

Sprint Refreshes Its Insurance Program, Changes Name to Sprint Complete

Sep 14, 2018, 9:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 14, 2018, 2:09 PM

Sprint today relaunched its device insurance program with the goal of making the service more useful. Sprint has dropped the former name (Sprint Total Equipment Protection) and renamed the service Sprint Complete. The insurance provides for $29 cracked screen repairs on Apple and Android devices. It includes unlimited storage, for backing up photos and videos, through the Complete Storage app. Sprint Complete provides password protection and online password management tools, such as protecting and/or restoring your identity. Sprint Complete will replace lost or stolen devices, sometimes as quickly as the next day. Last, Sprint Complete provides subscribers with access to live tech experts at some 450 Sprint stores and 260 Apple stores. Customers can even schedule in-home consultations. The monthly cost ranges from $9 to $19, based on the device being insured. Sprint customers can sign up within 30 days of purchasing or upgrading their device.

Coolpad Announces Kid-Focused Dyno One Smart Wearable

Sep 13, 2018, 3:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Coolpad today announced the Dyno One, a smart wearable meant for kids. The product is made from bright-colored materials and boasts a kid-friendly user interface. It includes a dedicated SOS button and is rated IP65 for protection against dust and water exposure. Coolpad says the Dyno offers an Android and iOS app, available to parents, for controlling and monitoring the smart wearable. It can deliver real-time location as well as set geo-fences for virtual perimeters and location-based alerts. Parents can message or call the Dyno when needed. Coolpad claims the wearable has been put through rigorous tests to ensure that the data is encrypted and safe from prying eyes. For example, the Dyno wearable is COPPA compliant and is secured by Smartcom. The hardware is based on the Snapdragon Wear 2100 platform and includes 4G LTE connectivity. It is being prepared for a launch in the U.S. market ahead of the 2018 holiday shopping season. Coolpad says more details will be made available over time.

Google Brings More Parental Controls to YouTube Kids App

Sep 13, 2018, 11:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made it easier for parents to find YouTube content suitable for their kids. To start, the company is implementing parental controls first announced in April. This new tool allows parents to "handpick every video and channel available to their child in the app." This gives parents total control over the videos, channels, or collection of channels that their children can access and view within YouTube Kids. Google says this feature is reaching all Android devices globally today and will reach iOS in the near future. Google is also making it simpler for parents to find age-relevant content. The new app now offers "younger" and "older" options. The new "older" selection targets kids aged 8 to 12. It adds new content such as popular music and gaming videos. The "younger" setting continues to prioritize sing-alongs and learning videos. YouTube warns that its filters may still miss some inappropriate videos. Parents can flag such videos and report them to YouTube. The older content setting is rolling out to YouTube Kids users in the U.S. today and will reach other markets later this year.

Samsung to Adopt Google's RCS-Based Messaging Platform So Samsung Messages and Android Messages Are Compatible

Sep 12, 2018, 7:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Owners of Samsung Galaxy phones will soon have access to a more powerful messaging app. Samsung says it is working more closely with Google to ensure that its own Samsung Messages app will work seamlessly with Google's Android Messages app. Samsung is integrating the Google- and GSMA-backed RCS standard within its own app. RCS offers features such as read receipts, group chats, typing indicators, and high-resolution photo/video sharing. To-date, these RCS-based features were only available to Google's Android Messages, meaning both the sender and recipient needed to use Android Messages. Eventually, these features will come to the Samsung Messages app and work between the two. The RCS features are dependent on network support and will only be available to customers on carriers that have deployed RCS. In the U.S., that includes Sprint and T-Mobile. Samsung is starting off slowly. It will first bring these features to the 2017-era Galaxy S8 and S8+, followed by the S8 Active, S9, S9+, Note8, Note9, and select A and J series running Android 9.0 or later. Eventually, new Galaxy phones will natively support RCS when they first go on sale. Samsung did not provide a timeline for deploying its RCS-based Samsung Messages App.

Alcatel Tetra, A Low-Cost Android Phone, Lands On AT&T Prepaid

Sep 10, 2018, 8:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today announced the Tetra, an entry-level device that's being sold by AT&T's prepaid business. The Tetra features a 5-inch display with 480 by 854 pixels for FWVGA resolution. The display is protected by 2D Dragontrail glass. The Tetra is powered by a 1.1 GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6739WM processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone supports microSD memory cards up to 128 GB. The 5-megapixel camera on the rear has an LED flash and can capture 720p HD video with time-lapse and stabilization. The 2-megapixel selfie camera on front has a screen-based flash and can also record 720p HD video with face beautification. Other features include Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, WiFi, LTE, and a 2,050mAh battery. The Tetra runs Android 8.1 Oreo. AT&T Prepaid is selling the Alcatel Tetra for $39.99. It is available online today and will reach stores on September 14.

7-Eleven Rolls Out Support for Apple Pay and Google Pay

Sep 10, 2018, 6:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The 7-Eleven convenience store chain today said Apple Pay and Google Pay are now available at the majority of its U.S. locations. 7-Eleven expects to conclude its roll out by the end of the month. This means people who own the iPhone 6 and newer or most current Android phones (with NFC) can make tap-and-go payments at their favorite 7-Eleven store. The company also introduced a new mobile app called 7-Eleven Now, which lets people order items from 7-Eleven on-demand from their iPhone. 7-Eleven says the app is being rolled out to select U.S. markets before a wider release. It didn’t name the markets. Apple Pay and Google Pay must be set up directly on the mobile device worth a credit/debit card before either can be used to make purchases.

Hands On with Wear OS by Google

Sep 10, 2018, 1:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently announced that a new version of Wear OS will begin reaching Android-based smartwatches in the weeks ahead. We got an early look at it on a reference device running the new Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 platform. Here are a few brief thoughts.

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Samsung Brings Galaxy A6 to the US for $360

Sep 7, 2018, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said it plans to sell the Galaxy A6 phone in the U.S. beginning September 14. The A6 is a mid-range phone that fills the gap between Samsung's entry-level J series and flagship S series phones. The A6 features a 5.6-inch Super AMOLED Infinity Display with HD+ resolution. The phone is powered by a Samsung Exynos 7884 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The A6 offers two 16-megapixel cameras, one on front and the other on back, each with its own LED flash. The rear camera has an aperture of f/1.7, while the front camera has an aperture of f/1.9. The camera app is able to use Samsung's Bixby Vision to identify items in the viewfinder as well as translate text. A 3,000mAh battery is sealed in the chassis, and the fingerprint reader is mounted on the rear panel. The phone includes good LTE support for T-Mobile thanks to Bands 66 and 71. Other radios include Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, NFC, and WiFi. The Galaxy S6 runs Android 8 Oreo and will be sold unlocked via Samsung.com for $360. Samsung says Sprint will also sell the phone on September 14, with other carriers to follow later. Carrier pricing may be different. Last, Samsung is making the Galaxy J3 and Galaxy J7 available on September 14 unlocked via Samsung.com for $170 and $250, respectively.

EU to Let Apple's Purchase of Shazam Move Forward

Sep 6, 2018, 8:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The European Commission has given Apple permission to close its planned purchase of Shazam. In April, the Commission put the brakes on the deal in fear in might reduce choice for users of music streaming services. After conducting an investigation, the Commission now concedes that the acquisition will not harm European consumers. Shazam is used by hundreds of millions of people worldwide to query song identities by pointing their phone or watch at an audio source. It is available to Android and iOS devices alike. The $400 million deal was first made public in December. It's not clear how quickly Apple will close the deal.

Google Photos Updated with Material Design

Sep 6, 2018, 7:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has pushed an update to Google Photos that gives the app a small visual refresh and also introduces some new tools. The app adopts Google's Material Design and has fresh icons, bolder fonts, and smoother corners. Several new features are on board as well, such as an info page for each photo that appears by swiping upwards. Google Photos for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Google Adds Rugged Category to Enterprise Recommended Program

Sep 5, 2018, 1:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google’s Android Enterprise Recommended program now includes a number of rugged devices. The program, launched earlier this year, requires phones to meet a number of qualifications, such as updates to the core OS and security patches. In order to qualify for the rugged recommendations, devices must meet basic specs for surviving abuse, water submersion, and more. The initial list of devices making the grade includes the Zebra TC25, TC51, TC56, TC70x and TC75x; Honeywell Dolphin CT40, Dolphin CT60 and Dolphin CN80; Sonim XP8; Point Mobile PM45; and the Datalogic Memor 10. Google already recommends a significant number of regular Android devices from BlackBerry, Sony, and others.

Android's September Security Patches Are Here

Sep 4, 2018, 12:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today detailed the September security patches for Android devices. The company says it discovered a number of vulnerabilities impacting the Android runtime, framework, media framework, and system software. It also found component-level issues with hardware from Qualcomm. Most issues were given a severity rating of "high" but a significant number were listed as "critical." Many could have led to remote code execution. Google says it informed its hardware partners about the issues about 30 days ago. Google does not believe any of the security holes have been exploited by hackers. Google is pushing two updates to its Nexus and Pixel phones, dated September 1 and September 5. It will be up to individual device makers (Samsung, Motorola, et al.) to update their own hardware with the latest patches. Google will provide AOSP with the patches within 48 hours.

Google Overhauls Chrome for the Browser's 10th Birthday

Sep 4, 2018, 12:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced sweeping changes headed to its Chrome browser for desktop machines, as well as Android and iOS devices. First, the browser will have a brand new look thanks to a fresh color palette and rounded corners. For example, Google changed the shape of tabs so web site icons are easier to spot. On mobile, Chrome moved the toolbar to the bottom of the screen for iOS where it is easier to reach. The mobile version of Chrome also enjoys simplified prompts, menus, and URLs in the address bar. Chrome bakes in better support for passwords, addresses, and credit card numbers to speed up the process of filling out online forms. This info is saved to each user's account and can be accessed from other devices when signed in. Google has taken care to improve the way Chrome handles passwords. For example, Chrome can auto-generate password suggestions and will then save it for successive logins across devices. Google updated the Omnibox to show answers directly in the address bar without opening a new tab. The Omnibox also lets people search for a web site and, if it's already open on their device, jump straight to it. This same feature will also soon search through Google Drive files. Google says Chrome is easier to customize. Users can create and manage shortcuts via the new tab page, which can feature a customized background. Chrome is available to iOS, Android, macOS, and Windows devices.

OnePlus Offers Open Beta of Android 9 Pie to the OnePlus 6

Sep 4, 2018, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

OnePlus has made the first Open Beta build of OxygenOS based on Android 9 Pie available to the OnePlus 6. OnePlus had previously been testing the beta with a closed group. Now, anyone with a OnePlus 6 and the desire to check out Pie can install the beta platform on their device. OnePlus says the beta introduces a brand new user interface for Android 9 based on Pie's gesture navigation. The beta offers system improvements, more customization features, and a refreshed Do Not Disturb mode. Other features include a new Gaming Mode, improved text notifications, and third-party call notifications. OnePlus warns there are several known issues with the build. For example, Google Pay is not working, and the Google Play Store may display a "Device is not Certified by Google" notification when users attempt to download apps. Devices running the beta may also suffer from instability. Instructions for downloading and installing Android 9 Pie on the OnePlus 6 are available from OnePlus' web site.

Huawei Intros Android 9 Pie-Based EMUI 9.0

Sep 1, 2018, 10:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Huawei today revealed its forthcoming user interface skin, EMUI 9.0. The new user experience is based on Android 9 Pie, which means it offers many of the new features included in Google’s code. Huawei said its goal in developing EMUI 9.0 was to simplify the experience and make it more consistent. For example, it has reduced the number of options in its settings menu from 940 in EMUI 8.0 to 843 in EMUI 9.0. The company’s designers have pared back the look of individual apps and given them a consistent look across the user interface. Huawei also sought to make the UI more natural. It features nature-based wallpapers, backgrounds, and even sounds for the alarms and alert tones. The clock app will tick with the sound of a real clock and the keyboard will clack with the sound of a mechanical typewriter. The UI looks to smooth over navigation. For example, Huawei will move app controls to the bottom of the screen, where they are easier to reach, whenever possible. A new swiping gesture on the home screen will call up a navigation panel for jumping to select apps and settings. EMUI 9.0 also introduces GPU Turbo 2.0 with a focus on mobile gaming. Huawei insists its new algorithms improve GPU efficiency and reduce power needs during gaming, all while delivering smoother performance. Huawei claims EMUI 9.0’s GPU as run on its new Kirin 980 SoC performs significantly faster than the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845. Last, a password vault is being added to the platform to help with app logins. People will be able to store usernames and passwords in the secure zone and then call them up using a fingerprint reader or facial recognition when signing into apps. Huawei is offering EMUI 9.0 in beta form to select devices. It will eventually be seeded to the Mate 10, Mate 10 Pro, P20, P20 Pro, Honor 10, 10 View, and Play.

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GreatCall Debuts Jitterbug Smart2 for Seniors

Aug 31, 2018, 8:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

GreatCall recently announced the Jitterbug Smart2, a new version of its smartphone for seniors. The phone is based on Android, but GreatCall has completely overwritten the user interface with its own software that was designed specifically for ease-of-use. It has large text and icons that are easy to identify. Basic apps include phone, text messaging, camera, internet, email, maps, and Lively. The Smart2 has voice typing and a speakerphone. The phone has a dedicated 5Star button and can access GreatCall's health and safety services, as well as emergency services when needed. The phone has a 5.5-inch display with 720p resolution. It includes a 13-megapixel main camera with flash, and a 5-megapixel user-facing camera. A 2,500mAh battery provides all-day power and the phone charges via microUSB. The phone has LTE 4G, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, and WiFi. The Smart2 is manufactured by TCL, the parent company of Alcatel and BlackBerry Mobile. GreatCall says the Jitterbug Smart2 will be available from September 3. The standard retail price is $150, but it is on sale for $112.

Qualcomm Intros aptX Adaptive for High-End Wireless Audio

Aug 31, 2018, 8:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today announced aptX Adaptive, a more flexible version of its audio codec. The refreshed codec targets premium devices with improved audio quality, lowered latency, and low-bit rate transmission. What makes it unique is that the codec was engineered to adjust on the fly in order to provide better quality or adjusted latency. It will help headphones, speakers, phones, and other devices automatically tweak settings based on the content being played and the outer RF environment to ensure a strong connection. Qualcomm says aptX Adaptive will first appear in headsets, headphones, and speakers via the CSRA68100 and QC5100 Bluetooth Audio SoCs beginning in September. Qualcomm is preparing a version of aptX Adaptive for Android-based phones and tablets for a December release.

Motorola Debuts One and One Power Phones with Android One

Aug 31, 2018, 4:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today announced the Motorola One and Motorola One Power, two inexpensive phones that run the Android One platform. Motorola says these phones will be among the first to be updated to Android 9 Pie, and will receive security/feature updates for three years. The phones aren't saddled with bloatware and include only essential apps from Google. One such app is Google Lens, which can help people identify places and things using the camera.

  • Motorola One: This phone features a 5.9-inch HD+ screen with a 19:9 aspect ratio. It packs a dual 13-megapixel camera on the back and an 8-megapixel camera on front. Photo modes include portrait, cinemagraph, time-lapse, and 4K video capture. Google says the battery supports TurboPower charging. The Motorola One is based on a Snapdragon 625 processor with eight cores at 2 GHz. The phone goes on sale in Europe, Latin America, and Asia in the coming months for €299.
  • Motorola One Power: This phone stretches the screen to 6.2 inches with full HD+ resolution and a 19:9 aspect ratio. Motorola claims the phone has two days of battery life, and can deliver 6 hours of performance after being charged for just 15 minutes. The phone is based on the Snapdragon 636 platform with eight cores at 1.8 GHz. Motorola says the One Power has 64 GB of internal storage, and it supports microSD cards up to 256 GB. The One Power will initially be sold in India starting in October. Motorola didn't say if the phone will be made available in other markets.

ZTE Axon 9 Pro Puts AI to Work

Aug 30, 2018, 9:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today announced the Axon 9 Pro, its first real flagship device since the 2016 Axon 7. This new phone adopts a metal-and-glass design with 2.5 curved glass on front, a metal frame, and glass on the back. The phone offers a 6.2-inch full HD+ (2,248 x 1,080) AMOLED screen with what ZTE calls Axon Vision. Axon Vision uses AI to change the screen's settings in real time to ensure the best color and brightness given the environment. The screen relies on an independent display processing chip with MEMC (motion estimation, motion compensation) technology, which can boost 24/30fps video to 60fps for smoother playback. Last, the display supports HDR10 video playback. A Snapdragon 845 provides the brains of the operation and it is aided by 6 GB of RAM, with 128 GB of internal storage. The dual-camera configuration relies on the 845's AI capabilities to introduce new features. The main camera has a 12-megapixel sensor at f/1.75 with optical image stabilization, autofocus, and dual photo diode. The secondary camera has a 20-megapixel sensor and a 130-degree wide angle of view. The front camera has a 20-megapixel fixed-focus camera with face detection. The AI features include intelligent motion tracking for constant focus, smart portraiture, and better slow motion. The phone has a 4,000mAh battery that ZTE says is optimized via constant AI-based evaluation. It will proactively shut down background apps that are draining power. The battery supports rapid charging and Qi-based wireless charging. A fingerprint sensor is located on the rear and the phone is IP68 certified for protection from water/dust. Radios include NFC, dual-band 2x MIMO WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, and LTE. Last of the major features are stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos for clear, loud sound. The phone ships with Android 8.1 Oreo. Pricing is expected to be in the neighborhood of $750. ZTE says the device is chiefly intended for overseas markets.

Hands On with the Sony Xperia XZ3

Aug 30, 2018, 8:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 30, 2018, 6:08 PM

Sony’s latest flagship smartphone packs tons of features into its metal-and-glass body. It offers a 6-inch screen, Snapdragon 845 processor, 19-megapixel camera, and advanced audio capabilities. It boasts new camera software and Android 9 Pie. Here are our first impressions.

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HTC U12 Life Fills the Mid-Range Space

Aug 30, 2018, 3:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC today announced the U12 Life, a mid-range phone that offers the core characteristics of the U12+ in a less expensive form. The phone comes in two two-tone finishes, blue and purple. Each has a glossy surface on the rear surrounding the camera and a matte finish below the camera. The U12 Life boasts a 6-inch display with full HD+ resolution at the 18:9 aspect ratio. It is powered by a Snapdragon 636 processor with 4 or 6 GB of RAM and 64 or 128 GB of storage. The phone has a two-camera system on the rear. The main camera has a 16-megapixel sensor at f/2.0 with phase-detection autofocus, HDR, face detection, and two-tone LED flash. It is aided by a 5-megapixel camera for bokeh / portrait shots. The selfie camera packs a 13-megapixel sensor with beauty mode, HDR, and its own LED flash. The phone packs a 3,600mAh battery with power saving mode and a rear-mounted fingerprint reader for security. Other features include dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, NFC, a USB-C port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The U12 Life ships with Android 8.1 Oreo and will be sold in select markets later this year. HTC says the phone will not be sold in the U.S.

Google’s Lightweight Search App Can Now Read Web Pages Aloud

Aug 28, 2018, 8:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Google Go search application with a handy new feature: the ability to read web sites out loud. Google Go is primarily found on devices running the Android Go platform. It can now read billions of web pages in 28 different languages in a smooth an natural-sounding voice. Google says the technology uses artificial intelligence to ascertain which parts of a web site to read out loud and which to skip over. The feature uses minimal data and can work over 2G connections. Google believes the feature will be useful for these with poor eyesight, or when multitasking, or when learning a new language. The feature is available to the latest version of Google Go.

LG Adds Two More Affordable Devices to the G7 Series

Aug 28, 2018, 5:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today announced the G7 One and G7 Fit, phones that share the basic design of the G7 ThinQ but dial back the specs in order to make them less expensive. Shared features between the two include 6.1-inch quad HD+ LCD displays (3,120 by 1,440 pixels), 3,000mAh batteries with QuickCharge 3.0, LTE 4G, WiFi, NFC, and USB-C connectors. The phones also include IP68 protection from water and dust, mil-spec 810G certification, face recognition, fingerprint sensors, and FM radios. On the audio front, the G7 One and G7 Fit offer LG's 32-bit quad DAC with 3D X surround sound, and LG's boombox stereo speakers.

  • G7 One: This variant of the G7 family runs Android One. LG says the Android 8.1 Oreo-based platform ships with only the most essential apps. The G7 One forgoes bloatware in order to keep performance smooth. The phone packs a Snapdragon 835 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The main camera has a 16-megapixel sensor with a standard 71-degree field of view at f/1.6. The selfie camera has an 8-megapixel sensor with a wide(r) 80-degree field of view at f/1.9. It is assisted by LG's AI Cam software. The G7 One includes Bluetooth 5.0 LE and comes in black or blue.
  • G7 Fit: The Fit runs the standard version of Android 8.1 Oreo. It is powered by a Snapdragon 821 processor and comes with 4 GB of RAM and either 32 or 64 GB of storage. The main camera has a 16-megapixel sensor with a standard 76-degree field of view at f/2.2. The selfie camera has an 8-megapixel sensor with a wide(r) 80-degree field of view at f/1.9. It has LG's AI Cam software aboard as well as Google Lens. The G7 Fit includes Bluetooth 4.2 and comes in black or gray.
LG said pricing and availability will be announced closer to launch. The company didn't specify if these phones will be sold in the U.S.

Google Updates YouTube App with Usage Controls

Aug 27, 2018, 9:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

As part of its push toward digital wellbeing, Google has added several tools to YouTube that are meant to help people control how much time they spend watching videos. To start, the company has installed a profile to the setting menu that highlights how much video that person has watched both in the last 24 hours, last 48 hours, and last seven days. Once people get a feel for how much they're actually watching, they can set reminders to take a break. Providing the app with a time limit will cause it to display a popup reminder when that limit is reached. Moreover, YouTube is tackling notifications in a new way. For example, people can elect to have YouTube push just one notification per day, rather than many. Additionally, YouTube will begin silencing notifications between 10pm and 8am in order to help people sleep without distractions. Each of these behaviors can be fine-tuned to suit individual needs. The new usage controls are available to YouTube for Android and iOS starting today.

Fortnite Installer Contained Huge Security Gap

Aug 25, 2018, 9:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Epic Games' popular Fortnite game was beset with a flaw so severe it allowed any app on Android phones to download anything silently in the background. The issue arose due to the way Epic chose to distribute the game. Had Epic published the game in the Google Play Store the company would have been beholden to the 30% fees charged by Google, thereby eating into its ability to make money. Epic decided to offer the game apart from the Play Store. The process involved downloading and installing a separate installer app that then downloaded the game itself. It was this in-between app, the Fortnite Installer, that introduced the security flaw. Google's security team discovered that the Fortnite Installer app could be hijacked by any app on the phone. The apps could then download literally anything to the phone with full permissions granted unbeknownst to the Fortnite Installer and device owner. Google informed Epic Games of the vulnerability on August 15 and a patch has since been issued. The episode serves to highlight the danger of installing apps that don't come directly from the Google Play Store. There's no word if the security hole was exploited.

Galaxy J2 Core Is Samsung's First Android Go Phone

Aug 24, 2018, 7:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today announced the J2 Core, a low-cost phone based on the Android Go platform. This device relies on design language similar to Samsung's pricier phones. It features a 5-inch display with 960 by 540 resolution. The J2 Core is powered by a Samsung Exynos 7570 processor and it has 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of built-in storage. Two cameras are aboard the J2 Core, including an 8-megapixel shooter on back with a flash and a 5-megapixel shooter on front. Both cameras have an aperture of f/2.2 and tools such as beauty mode. The phone packs a 2,600mAh battery and includes Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi. The Android Oreo Go operating system includes compact versions of key apps, such as Google Go, Assistant Go, YouTube Go, Gboard, Chrome, Maps Go, Files Go, Gmail Go, and Google Play. The phone will initially go on sale in Malaysia, and will eventually spread to other markets. Samsung has not announced plans to offer the Galaxy J2 Core in the U.S.

OnePlus Pushing Security Patch to 5 and 5T

Aug 22, 2018, 8:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

OnePlus has begun rolling out OxygenOS 5.1.5 to the OnePlus 5 and OnePlus 5T phones. The lone user-facing feature in the update is the ability to confirm your PIN without tapping the check key to unlock the phone. This saves one tap in the unlocking process. OxygenOS 5.1.5 also includes the latest Android security patch from Google. OnePlus says the update is being pushed out slowly over the next few days, beginning with a small number to ensure there are no bugs. Most devices will see the update arrive over the next week.

Google Fit Gains New Focus On Movement and Heart Rate

Aug 21, 2018, 8:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today unveiled a new version of Google Fit, its app for tracking fitness activities. Google says the revised app focuses on two activity goals based on recommendations made by the American Heart Association and World Health Organization: Heart Points and Move Minutes. The idea is to help people increase their heart rate and increase their movement. Google says the app will give people one point for each minute of moderate activity, such as quick walking, and two points for intense workouts, such as jogs or bike rides. Google says most people can reach their heart rate and movement goals with 30 minutes of brisk walking for five days a week. Google Fit can automatically detect a number of activities (walking, running, biking) using either an Android phone or Android Wear OS watch thanks to embedded sensors. People can manually initiate other activities such as rowing or spinning. Google will calculate the Heart Points and Move Minutes earned for each activity and tally them up throughout the week. It can play nicely with third-party fitness apps, including Strava, Runkeeper, and Endomondo, so people earn credit for all their activity. Over time, Google Fit will offer tips on how to adjust goals or get a better workout. Google says the new Google Fit is rolling out to Android phones and watches this week.

‘Undo’ Sent Email Feature Comes to Gmail for Android

Aug 20, 2018, 3:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Gmail users on Android now have a few seconds to reconsider the email they may have just sent. Version 8.7 of the Gmail app for Android has added a new “undo” feature, similar to the one that appears on the desktop version of Gmail. For several seconds after sending an email, users can recall the message by pressing the new “undo” button that appears in the lower-right corner of the app. When tested, the app provides about 4-5 seconds to recall emails. Gmail for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.

FitBit Charge 3 Targets More Activities and Offers More Smartphone Integration

Aug 20, 2018, 8:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FitBit today announced the Charge 3, a fitness tracker that ups the ante thanks to a larger screen and smartwatch-like features. The Charge 3 has a heart rate monitor and tracks the rate 24/7. The software can show owners their heart rate zones in real time as they work out to ascertain if they are at a fat burn, cardio, or peak rate. The Charge 3 can automatically recognize a number of activities, such as runs, walks, and bicycle rides, and it tracks more than 15 different goal-oriented exercises. The Charge 3 is waterproof to 50 meters, making it an excellent option for swimmers. The wearable also tracks sleep patterns and female health for a more complete picture of well-being. The Charge 3 runs a handful of apps, including a calendar, the weather, and FitBit Pay. The wearable integrates with the owner's Android phone or iPhone to provide incoming call and message alerts, and can be used to send quick message replies on Android. Other features include a larger, sharper touch screen, aluminum design with Gorilla Glass 3, and up to seven-day battery life. The Charge 3 comes in various sizes and colors. It costs $150 and is available for pre-order on FitBit.com.

Google Retracts Dark Mode from Android Messages

Aug 20, 2018, 7:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has quickly pulled a change from its recently updated Android Messages app. Last week, Google pushed an update to the app that refreshed the design with new fonts and background colors, including a dark mode. Without explaining why, Google has reverted Android Messages to the old design even for those who've installed the most recent version of the app. It was able to do this from its servers, without requiring a new install to the app. It has not said if or when the new design will return.

BlackBerry Updates Core Android Apps for Key2 and Others

Aug 17, 2018, 12:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today announced updates to many of its productivity apps for Android devices. For example, the BlackBerry calendar now offers a month view with a refined picker for selecting times/dates when creating appointments. The contacts app is streamlined with automatic field population to speed up the process of creating new contacts. BlackBerry’s DTEK security software sees a significant number of updates. For example, the app’s home screen has been overhauled with a new dashboard to better show the phone’s stauts. Notifications and applications can be more finely tuned via new permissions settings. Further, DTEK will scan the phone at least once per week to make sure the device is up to date. The privacy shade should be easier to turn on thanks to new home screen controls, and the power management center should be more efficient and offer more useful alerts. All these apps are free to download individually from the Google Play Store.

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