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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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Facebook, Google, Microsoft to Make It Easier to Port Data Between Services

Yesterday, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook and partners today announced the Data Transfer Project, an initiate with the goal of giving people more control over their data. The companies are working together to create an open source method that people can use to easily transfer their data from one service to another. For example, the tool would make it possible for a Google Photos uses to swap their image library to Microsoft OneDrive and any other provider. The Data Transfer Project hopes to do this in a way that is simple, secure, and supported by as many services as possible. While Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter are the first to lend support, the initiative is open to all companies. "If a user wants to switch to another product or service because they think it is better, they should be able to do so as easily as possible. This concept of allowing users to choose products and services based on choice, rather than being locked in, helps drive innovation and facilitates competition," said the companies in their white paper. The participants admit it is early days for the project and they haven't said when the DTP might be available to the public. Consumers often choose an ecosystem — Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, et al — when buying hardware. The DTP could make it simpler for people to change ecosystems when upgrading to new devices.

MediaTek Debuts Helio A Series to Bolster Mid-Range Phones

Wednesday, 7:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

MediaTek has announced the Helio A22, the first in the company's new Helio A series system-on-a-chip designs. The Helio A series slots in below the Helio P series and will bring premium features down to mid-market devices. MediaTek says the A22 is built using its 12nm FinFET process with multiple cores able to fine-tune processing and power needs. The A22 is compatible with both LPDDR3 and LPDDR4 memory, providing device makers with flexibility. It includes supports for the Google Android Neural Networks API, which means AI apps can run on devices powered by the Helio A22. The SoC improves camera support to a dual-camera system with a 13+8-megapixel configuration or a single camera at 21 megapixels. It can capture full HD video at 30 frames per second and supports HD+ displays at aspect ratios up to 20:9. On the connectivity side, the Helio A22 supports Cat 4 LTE, dual 4G SIMs with VoLTE/ViLTE, 802.11ac WiFi, and Bluetooth 5.0. Last, the Helio A22 makes improvements to GNSS location capabilities, providing 57% faster pinpoint times with 10% better accuracy and 24% lower power requirements. MediaTek says the Helio A22 is already in production and will first appear in the Xiaomi Redmi 6A in China.

Google Hopes Visual Snapshot Will Boost Google Assistant's Appeal

Tuesday, 12:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced an update to Google Assistant that will see the service displaying a snapshot of users' agendas. The visual overview can be accessed by a new button that appears in the Google Assistant app for Android. On iOS devices, the new snapshot tool will appear automatically. Google says the snapshot will focus on things such as travel times for meetings and appointments, though it will also offer information on agenda items, reminders, reservations, stock portfolios, bills, packages, and suggested actions. Google plans to add more useful features to snapshot over time, such as notes and lists, parking reminders, and podcast recommendations. Google Assistant may also send notifications to ensure people don't miss future events. Google Assistant with the new visual snapshot feature is rolling out to Android and iOS devices this week.

AT&T Prepaid Now Selling the LG Phoenix Plus

Jul 16, 2018, 2:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T has kicked off sales of the LG Phoenix Plus, a variant of the K10 announced earlier this year. The Phoenix Plus has a U-shaped metal frame with a 5.3-inch, 720p display and a 1.5 GHz, octa-core Snapdragon 425 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone features an 8-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel front camera. The selfie camera can capture bokeh-style shots. LG said the phone has new Low Light Noise functionality that improve low-light photography. Other features include a 3,000mAh battery, fingerprint reader, NFC, LTE, GPS, Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi, FM radio, microUSB, and Android 8.1 Oreo. AT&T Prepaid sells the LG Phoenix Plus for $130.

Instagram Now Lets You Know When You're "Caught Up"

Jul 2, 2018, 1:22 PM   by Rich Brome

Instagram today announced a new feature that lets you know when you've seen everything posted in the past two days in your main Instagram feed. The "You're All Caught Up" message will appear below the last new and unseen post, with viewed and older posts appearing below the new message. The feature is available in both Android and iOS versions of the Instagram app today.

Android P Reaches "Early Release Candidate" with Beta 3

Jul 2, 2018, 1:13 PM   by Rich Brome

Google today released Android P beta version 3 for developers. This "early release candidate" "takes us very close to what you'll see in the final version of Android P", according to Google. It's available today for Google Pixel phones that have opted into the Android beta program. The final version of Android P will be available "later this summer". It brings richer interactive notifications, the ability for third-party apps to make use of dual cameras, standardized support for display "notches", and indoor positioning using Wi-Fi. It also incorporates changes to improve security, privacy, and accessibility.

Verizon and Verizon Prepaid Offering Samsung Galaxy J3

Jun 29, 2018, 12:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 29, 2018, 12:12 PM

Verizon Wireless today added the Samsung Galaxy J3 to its lineup of postpaid and prepaid phones. The Galaxy J3, announced earlier this month, has a 5-inch HD display, 8-megapixel main camera at f/1.9, and a 5-megapixel selfie cam at f/2.2. The J3 has a 2,600mAh battery and includes Android 8 Oreo, 2 GB of memory, 16 GB of storage, Bluetooth 4.2, and WiFi. It is powered by an octa-core Exynos processor. This phone includes Samsung's Easy Mode UI skin for bigger fonts and icons and offers the Bixby Home app for learned recommendations. The phone is available as the Galaxy J3 V via Verizon's postpaid service for $168, or $7 per month. It is available as the Galaxy J3 3rd Gen via Verizon's prepaid service for $124.

Instagram Lets You Add A Soundtrack to Your Stories

Jun 28, 2018, 2:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today made it possible for users to add songs to their stories. Moving forward, a music icon appears when users add a sticker to a photo or video within the Stories tool. Tapping it opens a library of thousands of songs, says Instagram. The tool lets you browse or search by song title, artist, mood, or genre. People can fast-forward and rewind to find the exact part of the song they want to play along with their story. Alternately, iPhone owners can choose a song before they capture a photo or video and then record video along with the portion of the song they want. Those who view stories accompanied by songs will be able to see a sticker that displays the song title and artist name. Instagram says it is adding new songs to the library every day. The new song support is being added to the latest version of the mobile Instagram app for Android and iOS.

Cricket Wireless Picks Up the LG Stylo 4

Jun 28, 2018, 9:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless will soon kick off sales of the LG Stylo 4, a rebadged variant of the LG Q Stylus announced earlier this month. The Stylo 4 includes a stylus and has a metal body with mil-spec 810G for protection against abuse and IP68 protection against water and dust. The Stylo 4 has a 6.2-inch screen with LG's 2:1 Full Vision (2,160 x 1,080) resolution. The phone is powered by a 1.8 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 450 processor with 3 GB of memory and 32 GB of storage. The phone comes with a 13-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel front camera with a wide-angle lens. The Stylo 4 has a 3,300mAh battery and specs including USB-C, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, wifi, and LTE 4G. The fingerprint scanner is located on the rear surface. The phone ships with Android 8 Oreo and LG's pen-based software tools, such as memos and notes. Cricket Wireless will sell the phone starting June 29 for $229. The phone is already available from MetroPCS.

Instagram Lite Reaches Play Store for Entry-Level Phones

Jun 28, 2018, 7:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 28, 2018, 7:29 AM

Instagram has made a "lite" version of its mobile app available via the Google Play Store. The app is a pared-down version of its service that offers access to core features such as posting photos; sharing photos to stories and dressing them up with text; watching stories from other users; and browsing stories, photos, and videos in the Explore tab. Instagram says the app will also soon include a direct messaging feature. The app is incredibly small at just 573 kb. Instagram said, "We are testing a new version of Instagram for Android that takes up less space on your device, uses less data, and starts faster." The app is being tested in Mexico first and may expand to the countries later this year.

Non-Premium YouTube Users Gain Picture-in-Picture

Jun 28, 2018, 7:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has made YouTube's picture-in-picture feature, previously reserved for YouTube Premium accounts, more widely available. Android users in the U.S. now have free access to picture-in-picture when using YouTube. People can exit YouTube when watching a video and the video will appear in a separate window while the user completes other tasks. Picture-in-picture requires Android 8 Oreo and the feature doesn't extend to music videos.

Alexa for iPhone Now Hears Your Spoken Voice Requests

Jun 27, 2018, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon has updated its Alexa mobile app for iOS devices with the ability to support voice requests. The Android Alexa mobile app has had this feature since January. Now, iPhone users can issue voice commands to Alexa from their phone 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 iTunes App Store. Alexa is free to download.

Qualcomm Debuts New Snapdragon Wear 2500 for Kid Watches

Jun 27, 2018, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm has announced the Snapdragon Wear 2500, an update to its platform for wearable devices. This platform specifically targets wearables for children. The 2500 is based on a quad-core A7 processor and has an integrated GPU with support for cameras up to 5 megapixels for video chatting. The 2500 is based on a small version of Android O that fits into 512 MB. It bakes in support for various voice assistants, including Google Assistant. The 2500 includes NFC so kids can make mobile payments when needed. Other features of the Snapdragon Wear 2500 include low-power Bluetooth, LTE 4G, and location tracking, and an advanced sensor hub to accurately track movement. The Snapdragon Wear 2500 does all this in a compact form factor that is more efficient than the previous generation silicon. Qualcomm is shipping samples of the 2500 now and will offer a developer kit come fall.

Instagram's Video Chat Feature Rolling Out Today

Jun 26, 2018, 12:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today said video chat, new camera effects for Stories, and topic channels in Explore, features it first announced in May, are now rolling out. Video chatting appears as a new icon within direct message threads, which can be used to open one-on-one video chats between up to four users. The new camera effects platform is mostly for developers, who can now create their own unique, interactive camera and filter experiences for end users. The social network gave Ariana Grande, Baby Ariel, Liza Koshy, Vogue, the NBA, and Buzzfeed access to these tools first and each has made several filers available. Last, topic channels in the Explore tab are more personalized for end users. Instagram says users will see channels on topics they like such as art, sports, or fashion, as well as associated hashtags. People can also quickly browse through the Explore tab. These new features are reaching the Android and iOS versions of the Instagram app today.

AT&T Finds More Ways to Say Thanks

Jun 26, 2018, 11:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it has added a number of rewards and promotions to AT&T Thanks, its customer appreciate program. Once AT&T customers download the app and sign up for the program, they'll have access to new priority pre-sales and sweepstakes for a handful of concerts. AT&T has partnered with iHeartRadio to schedule 10 pop-up concerts this summer in cities including Austin, Charlotte, Cleveland, Dallas, Indianapolis, Memphis, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle. In addition to early access to tickets, AT&T Thanks participants may be able to interact with artists on site. AT&T Thanks is gaining dining deals, too. Participants can find offers and discounts from chain restaurants around the country, including Corner Bakery Cafe, TGI Fridays, Texas de Brazil, and Blaze Pizza. AT&T Thanks is available only to postpaid AT&T Wireless, DirecTV, U-Verse, and AT&T Internet customers. The app is available to Android and iOS devices.

Google's More Personalized Maps Now Rolling Out

Jun 26, 2018, 8:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is now pushing an update to Google Maps that introduces its Google Assistant-powered recommendations. The updated version of Maps, announced last month, is more accurate and helpful. A new tab called For You provides information about local neighborhoods. It offers suggestions for activities, tools for finding restaurants, and other recommendations through a new feature called Your Match. A third tool helps people plan group outings. A long press on place cards saves them to a shareable message thread where people can view places and vote on where to go. The new Maps has a new focus on small businesses and helps people keep tabs on what their local stores are doing, what their hours are, and when sales are available. Maps adds a computer vision (visual positioning system, or VPS) feature that uses the camera to help pinpoint location on a map with proper orientation based on the photo. Last, Maps taps into the power of Google Lens to provide information cards based what the camera sees. The new Google Maps is reaching Android devices now.

Google Speeds Up File Sharing in Files Go

Jun 25, 2018, 8:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced an update to its peer-to-peer sharing app, File Go, and says the new version is dramatically improved. To start, the sharing tool is easier to find and use because it is called out in a dedicated tab. The tab itself has a smoother interface and works on all devices running Android 5 and up. Files Go should be much faster at connecting to nearby devices for transferring files. Google says improved connection techniques allow devices to start talking to one another within five seconds. The app taps into WiFi Direct in the 5 GHz band to push files from one phone to another up to four times faster than before. Last, the app is more secure, as all file transfers are encrypted. Files Go is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Google Earth Intros Tool to Measure Distance and Area

Jun 25, 2018, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made it possible to make measurements using Google Earth. The new Measure Tool allows users to measure not only distances between points, but areas. The feature is available to Google Earth on Chrome right away. It reaches Android devices this week and will come to iOS devices soon.

Cricket Wireless Launches the Motorola Moto E5 Supra

Jun 22, 2018, 8:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today kicked off sales of the Motorola Moto E5 Supra, which is a renamed E5 Plus. The E5 Supra includes a 6-inch screen, Snapdragon 435 processor, 3 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage. It packs a 5,000mAh battery and offers users a 12-megapixel main camera and 8-megapixel front camera with LED flash. The phone runs Android 8 Oreo with Motorola software such as Moto Display and Moto Actions for managing the lock screen and improving usability. The phone is available online and in stores for $180.

Bing Gains Visual Search Tool

Jun 22, 2018, 7:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft this week rolled out an update to its Bing search engine that lets people perform searches based on things they see in the real world. The visual search function works similarly to Google Lens. Bing users can take a snapshot of a landmark, or plant, or animal and then search based on the image. Microsoft says it will identify the object and provide information about it along with links to learn more. Microsoft says the app also allows people to shop from image searches if they wish. The new visual search function is available within the Bing search app on Android and iOS, as well as via the Edge browser on Android. Visual search will reach the Edge browser on iOS in the weeks ahead.

Facebook Brings More Features to Messenger Kids As It Expands to More Countries

Jun 22, 2018, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook's Messenger Kids app is set to become more parent-friendly and more widely available. Facebook is updating the app today with a handful of features, including the ability for more than one parent to control the app and account. The company says it is working on "new features rooted in principles of social and emotional learning." For example, kids and parents will be greeted by a pledge of guiding principles when first signing into the app, and can make use of kindness stickers that let people offer encouragement to others. Last, the app is expanding to Canada and Peru, and is being made available in English, French, and Spanish to those countries and the U.S. Facebook Messenger Kids requires a parental account. It is available on Android and iOS.

BlackBerry KEY2 Goes On Sale July 13

Jun 21, 2018, 9:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

TCL today said the BlackBerry KEY2 will be available to preorder starting June 29 with an expected retail date of July 13. The phone will be sold unlocked from Amazon and Best Buy for $649. The KEY2, announced earlier this month, has a redesigned chassis, taller keyboard with better keys, and dual rear cameras. Other features include a Snapdragon 660 processor, 6 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage. The phone runs Android 8 Oreo with BlackBerry's hardened security and business communication software. The KEY2 has a 4.5-inch screen and 3,500mAh battery.

Google Simplifies Account Security and Control

Jun 21, 2018, 7:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today improved the design of its Google Account tool in order to make it easier for people to manage their account details, security, and privacy. The revised function provides summaries of personal information, devices with account access, payment methods, purchases, subscriptions, and contacts. A search function lets people easily find particular settings, such as how to change a password. It boasts a new support section with FAQs and other how-tos. Privacy controls are now managed in a single place that Google says has been tested by end users. It offers insight into account activity, and the refreshed Privacy Checkup helps people review their privacy settings and improve them if needed. For example, Google will offer prominent notices if it detects there's something amiss, and will suggest people remove old devices or unused apps from their account. The new Google Account dashboard is available to Android devices now, and will be available on the web and iOS devices later this year.

Amazon Adds Moto Z3 Play and G6 Play with Alexa to Prime Exclusive Lineup

Jun 21, 2018, 7:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon today made the Motorola Moto Z3 Play and Moto G6 Play, both with Alexa on board, available through its Prime Exclusives program. Phones sold through the Prime Exclusive program have a single sign-in for all Amazon services, such as Amazon Video and Amazon Music. The phones include a number of Amazon apps preinstalled. The Moto Z3 Play (pictured) has a 6-inch screen and is compatible with Motorola's Moto Mods accessories. It features a 12-megapixel main camera with a 5-megapixel secondary camera, and an 8-megapixel selfie camera. The Z3 Play ships with the Moto Power Pack Mod, and Amazon is offering a free Moto Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa for hands-free access to the Alexa assistant. Amazon is selling the Z3 Play for $450 (a $50 discount). The Moto G6 Play is a mid-range phone with a 5.7-inch screen, 13-megapixel main camera and 5-megapixel front camera. Amazon is selling the Moto G6 Play for $190 (a $10 discount). Both phones run Android 8 Oreo and are compatible with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Preorders start today, and the phones will ship June 29.

More Lawmakers Target Google Over Huawei Relationship

Jun 20, 2018, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

More members of Congress are posing questions about the relationship between Google and Huawei. Republican Senators Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio, Republican Representatives Liz Cheney and Michael Conaway, and Democratic Representative Dutch Ruppersberger all signed a letter sent to Google concerning the search giant’s recent decision to halt work on Project Maven. "While we regret that Google did not want to continue a long and fruitful tradition of collaboration between the military and technology companies, we are even more disappointed that Google apparently is more willing to support the Chinese Communist Party than the U.S. military,” read the letter, in part. It’s not clear what the lawmakers’ end goal is. Huawei uses Google’s Android operating system in its phones. Huawei is the world’s third-largest supplier of phones. Some members of Congress see Huawei as a national security threat due to its ties with the Chinese government. Earlier this year, Huawei saw smartphone distribution deals with AT&T and Verizon evaporate after pressure from Congress.

IGTV Is Instagram's Standalone Video App

Jun 20, 2018, 1:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today announced IGTV, a separate application meant expressly for consuming video content. Instagram insists IGTV is different from its existing app. "First, it’s built for how you actually use your phone, so videos are full screen and vertical. Also, unlike on Instagram, videos aren’t limited to one minute. Instead, each video can be up to an hour long," explained the company in a blog post. Videos from favored accounts will start to play as soon as users open the app. In addition to content from followers, IGTV will queue up videos based on users' interests. Sections such as For You, Following, Popular, and Continue Watching will let people browse and discover content from others. As always, people can like and comment on videos, as well as share them with friends. IGTV will include creator channels where people can upload their own videos. Instagram says the app will be available globally for Android and iOS devices over the next few weeks.

Google's Flutter Exits Beta and Reaches Release Preview

Jun 20, 2018, 10:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made the first Release Preview of Flutter available to developers. Flutter is a set of tools that can help developers create user interface designs that work on Android and iOS. Flutter has been in beta testing since February and saw its last major update in May. Google says Flutter is quick and easy to use, and can be put to use by experienced and novice developers alike. It includes frameworks for windows, widgets, animations, and image libraries. It includes a GPU-accelerated renderer and native ARM code runtime. It supports accessibility features, right-to-left text, localization, and internationalization. On iOS, it support inline video, additional image formats, and background processes. Flutter Release Preview 1 introduces a handful of new features, such as support for hardware keyboards, barcode scanners, and video recording. The team behind Flutter says it is focusing on improving the video player package with broader format support and better reliability. It has also extended Firebase support to include dynamic links for handling links across platforms. Last, Flutter now has instructions for adding Flutter widgets to existing Android and iOS apps. The end result, hopes Google, will be better looking and better functioning mobile apps that look and run the same on Android and iOS. More information about the new features in Flutter Release Preview 1 can be found at the Flutter blog.

Yahoo Overhauls Yahoo Mail for the Web, Debuts Lightweight Android Go Yahoo Mail App

Jun 19, 2018, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Yahoo today relaunched its mobile email product for smartphones on several fronts. First, the company has wholly rebuilt its mobile web app. The browser-based Yahoo Mail experience now mirrors that of the Yahoo Mail app for phones. For example, it lets people swipe through their inbox, customize the look and feel of the inbox, organize email via folders, take advantage of auto-complete and auto-suggest, and initiate more quick actions. Yahoo says the web-based app supports a home screen icon for Android and iOS alike. Yahoo rebuilt its mobile web app using web standards such as JavaScript, PHP, Apache, and AJAX. At the same time, Yahoo is rolling out a version of Yahoo Mail for Android Go. Android Go is Google's slimmed-down version of Android for very-low-cost phones. Typically, devices running Android Go have 1 GB of RAM or less. Yahoo Mail for Android Go offers all the same features of the full-fledged Yahoo Mail app, but boasts an install size of less than 10 MB and RAM usage of less than 50 MB. The app uses the same architecture as the standard Yahoo Mail app. The new Yahoo Mail web experience is available from most mobile browsers, while the new Yahoo Mail for Android Go app is available from the Google Play Store.

Google Says Android Messages Now Fully Available On the Web

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

Google today outlined some new functionalities headed to its Android Messages app. First, Messages users will be able to send and receive messages from their desktop PCs. Users will need to enable "Messages for web" in the mobile app. Once turned on, they'll be able to access stickers, emoji, and more from their PC. The Android Messages mobile app earns new support for GIFs, which are accessible from the composition bar. Google is adding its smart reply feature to Android Messages. This tool offers English-based, quick-response text/emoji suggestions. Google says more languages will be supported over time. Moving forward, Android Messages will bake in support for link previews. This way link recipients will be able to view an inline peek at linked info. Another new feature will provide people with instant copy access to one-time passwords received via text message. Android Messages on the web is rolling out today, with the rest of the features reaching the mobile app over the weeks ahead.

MetroPCS Adds LG Stylo 4 to Lineup

Jun 18, 2018, 10:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

MetroPCS has kicked off sales of the LG Stylo 4, a rebadged variant of the LG Q Stylus announced earlier this month. The Stylo 4 includes a stylus and has a metal body with mil-spec 810G for protection against abuse and IP68 protection against water and dust. The Stylo 4 has a 6.2-inch screen with LG's 2:1 Full Vision (2,160 x 1,080) resolution. The phone is powered by a 1.8 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 450 processor with 2 GB of memory and 32 GB of storage. The phone comes with a 13-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel front camera with a wide-angle lens. The Stylo 4 has a 3,300mAh battery and specs including USB-C, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, wifi, and LTE 4G. The fingerprint scanner is located on the rear surface. The phone ships with Android 8 Oreo and LG's pen-based software tools, such as memos and notes. MetroPCS is selling the phone for $179 with offers (regular rice $239). Versions of the LG Q Stylus / Stylo 4 for other carriers, including AT&T/Cricket, Sprint/Boost, and U.S. Cellular, have passed through the FCC in recent weeks.

Gmail for iOS Intros Notifications for High-Priority Messages Only

Jun 15, 2018, 7:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is rolling out a feature to its iOS Gmail app that will let people receive notifications only for messages deemed high priority. Google says the optional feature relies on machine learning and artificial intelligence to identify messages that the recipient may want to read first. A new "High Priority Only" option appears in the Notifications drop-down in Gmail's settings. Users will need to select it if they wish to test the scaled-back notifications. The feature is already available to the latest Gmail app for iOS and will reach Gmail for Android devices soon.

Twitter Aims to Make Discovery Simpler and More Rewarding

Jun 13, 2018, 11:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today announced a number of changes to the way it arranges tweets, trends, and topics in order to help people find and read about the things that interest them. For example, breaking news will now be added to the Happening Now tool that appears at the top of users' feeds. Twitter says it is expanding this function from local sports teams to include breaking and personalized news and videos. Similarly, Twitter also intends to test sending notifications about breaking news based on user interests. Twitter says people will be able to turn these notifications off if they wish. Twitter is overhauling the Explore tab. As it stands, the tab is organized by content type (videos, links). Moving forward, Twitter will organize the tab by topic to help people see what's happening in news and entertainment. The search tool gains improvements, too, as it will display information (news, events, stories) that is related to search queries in order to provide a broader picture. Last, Twitter is reorganizing the Moments tab. The new look trades horizontal swiping for vertical scrolling to improve usability. Moments will also gain multiple timelines in order to surface more tweets about the subject, highlighting the latest commentary. Twitter says these changes are rolling out piecemeal to Android and iOS devices over the next few weeks.

Google Brings Offline Neural Machine Translations to Mobile

Jun 12, 2018, 1:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made its neural machine translation (NMT) technology available to Google Translate even when mobile devices are offline. Google says NMT will run on Android and iOS phones in Google Translate, powering accurate translations when there's no internet connection. NMT translates text entire sentences at once, rather than word by word or phrase by phrase. This means translations sound more like they would if spoken by a real person. This is particularly helpful with longer sections of text, such as paragraphs or articles. Users will need to download the specific language pack they want/need to their device in order to access offline NMT. Most languages are between 35 MB and 45 MB, so they don't take up too much space. Google Translate is adding offline NMT support for 59 languages around the world over the next few days, with more in the works.

Google Expands Enterprise Recommendation Program to More Phones

Jun 12, 2018, 11:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said more phone makers now part of its Android Enterprise Recommended program. The Android Enterprise Recommended program, which was launched in February of this year, "establishes best practices and common requirements for devices and services, backed by a thorough testing process conducted by Google." In order to qualify, devices have to meet a number of specifications concerning their hardware, deployment, security updates, and user help programs. For example, devices approved must run at least Android 7 Nougat, and receive security updates no later than 90 days from their release from Google. A handful of new phones makers and devices are now recommended by Google, making for a total of 39 devices from nine device makers. New entries include the Sonim XP8; Sharp Aquos SH 10-K; Sony Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact; Motorola Moto G6, Moto G6 Plus, and Z3 Play; Huawei P20 and P20 Pro; BlackBerry KEY2; and HMD Global Nokia 3.1, 5.1, 6, 7 Plus, and 8 Sirocco. Several tablets have been certified for Android Enterprise Recommended, too, including the Huawei M5 8.4 and 10.8. Google says it will continue to update the list of devices recommended for business users as more phone makers commit to the requirements of the Android Enterprise Recommended program.

Google Waffles On Android WearOS Power Management

Jun 11, 2018, 2:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has reversed course on some ideas it had for managing battery life on WearOS devices in Android P. The company's original intent was to limit certain background operations, particularly alarms and jobs, in order to conserve power. It appears as though developers felt too limited by the limits. "From the outset of the Wear OS by Google developer preview, battery life has been a major focus area," explained Google. "When we talked to the developer community, the update that attracted the most feedback was the disabling of alarms and jobs for background apps. After listening to developer feedback and reviewing the battery statistics, we are reversing this change." The company said the strict on/off settings got in the way of general usage and negatively changed how people used their wearables. Moving down the road, Google says it will let developers use the App Standby Buckets tool in Android P to manage background and foreground tasks to balance power needs. Google says developers won't need to reinstall the platform on their developer devices, as the changes are being made on the back end. Google hopes WearOS developers continue to provide feedback so it can refine the platform ahead of its eventual release.

Asus ZenFone 5Q Hits US Retail Today

Jun 11, 2018, 1:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Asus today revealed that its ZenFone 5Q phone, first announced in February, is now available for sale in the U.S. The ZenFone 5Q has 2.5D curved class on the front and rear with a plastic frame in between. It boasts a 6-inch full HD+ 18:9 display. The Zenfone 5Q has four cameras, with an ultra-wide, 120-degree lens on each side. The main sensor on the rear captures 16-megapixel images, while the selfie camera has a Sony 20-megapixel sensor. The 5Q features a number of shooting modes, including portrait/bokeh. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 630 processor and comes with 4 GB of memory and 64 GB of storage. The phone ships with a 3,300mAh battery. Other features include NFC, dual SIM, face unlock, Bluetooth 4.1, dual-band wifi, fingerprint reader, speaker, and microUSB. Asus didn't spell out which LTE bands are supported but says the phone is compatible with AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. The phone runs Android 8 Oreo with Asus ZenUI 5.0. Asus says the ZenFone 5Q in midnight black is immediately available from Abt, Amazon, B&H, Best Buy, and Newegg for $299, while the moonlight white variant is available from Amazon, B&H, and Newegg for the same price.

Google’s Relationship with Huawei Under Question by US Gov

Jun 7, 2018, 5:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Several members of Congress are posing questions about the relationship between Google, Huawei, and other Chinese companies. Senator Mark Warner, a democrat who serves on the Senate Select Committie on Intelligence, has sent Google a letter with a request for information about its relationship with Huawei. Google confirmed that it received the query and said it “[looked] forward to answering these questions.” Warner sent a similar letter to Twitter. Mike Conaway, a republican congressman, indicated his office is making similar inquiries. Some in Congress see Huawei as a national security threat due to its ties with the Chinese government. Earlier this year, Huawei saw smartphone distribution deals with AT&T and Verizon evaporate after pressure from Congress. Later this summer the Senate Intelligence Committee expects to hear directly from Google executive Larry Page, as well as Facebook executive Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter boss Jack Dorsey over their relationships with Huawei and other Chinese firms. "The possibility of Chinese vendors with documented ties to the Chinese Communist Party having access to Facebook's private API (and potentially Alphabet's) — particularly as China develops tools to harness individual-level data for surveillance and social control — raises serious national security concerns," said a portion of Warner’s letter. Huawei denies that it represents any type of threat. It is the third-largest maker of phones in the world and uses Google’s Android operating system.

Samsung Rounds Out Entry-Level Roster with Galaxy J7 and Galaxy J3

Jun 7, 2018, 2:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 7, 2018, 3:39 PM

Samsung today announced the Galaxy J7 and Galaxy J3, simple phones that offer basic functionality at affordable price points. Shared features include Android 8 Oreo, 2 GB of memory, 16 GB of storage, Bluetooth 4.2, and WiFi. The international configuration of these phones ship with Samsung Exynos processors on board, but U.S. versions will likely swap for Qualcomm processors.

  • Galaxy J7: The larger of the two phones (top) features a 5.5-inch HD screen, 13-megapixel main camera at f/1.7 for better low-light photography, and a 13-megapixel front camera at f/1.9. Samsung says the phone has a large 3,300mAh battery for all-day use.
  • Galaxy J3: The smaller of the two phones (bottom) has a 5-inch HD display, 8-megapixel main camera at f/1.9, and a 5-megapixel selfie cam at f/2.2. This phone also includes Samsung's Easy Mode UI skin for bigger fonts and icons. The J7 has a 2,600mAh battery.
Both devices include the Samsung Knox security suite. Pricing and availability was not disclosed. Samsung said carrier variants will be announced at a later date.

Friend Tag You In an Instagram Post? Now You Can Share It

Jun 7, 2018, 1:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today introduced a new feature it calls @mention sharing that lets people share the posts in which they are tagged. "When someone mentions you in their story, you receive a notification in your Direct message thread with that person," explained Instagram. "Now, you’ll see an option to add that content to your own story." People can not only re-share the posts, they can turn them into stickers, scale and rotate them, as well as add text to dress them up. The original poster's username will be included in re-shared posts so others can access and explore that person's profile. This feature is only available to people with public accounts. Instagram says @mention sharing is available to the Android and iOS apps in a updated rolling out today.

Hands On with the BlackBerry KEY2

Jun 7, 2018, 10:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

TCL gave its BlackBerry phone a total makeover and hit all the right spots. The phone is easier on the eyes, easier to hold and use, and more powerful than ever thanks to improved specs. With two rear cameras and portrait shooting, Android 8.1 Oreo with BlackBerry Hub+ and DTEK, and a retooled keyboard that's more responsive, there's lots to like about the latest 'Berry. Here are Phone Scoop's first impressions.

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