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Created by Google, Android is a smartphone OS and platform that is open-source and open for any manufacturer to use to make a smartphone. Most Android phones use a version that is mostly provided by Google and requires Google services. Android phones can run Android apps, available from the Google Play Store, or, optionally, from other sources.

by:  Google


Snapdragon 888 Will be Qualcomm's Next Premium Chip

Today, 10:31 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Today, 11:48 AM

At Qualcomm's Snapdragon Tech Summit event, the company announced its next top-end Snapdragon chip, the Snapdragon 888. The 888 is expected to power most flagship Android phones in 2021. Although Qualcomm is saving many details for tomorrow's keynote, it did reveal a few top-level features of the chip. With its X60 modem, it will support 5G carrier aggregation (CA), which can offer up to double the sub-6 GHz 5G data rates compared to chips without 5G CA. The 888 is the first chipset to support 5G CA across TDD and FDD bands, as well as across sub-6 and mmWave bands. The updated Spectra ISP can capture roughly 120 photos per second at 12 megapixel resolution (a total throughput of 2.7 gigapixels per second). The new 6th-generation AI engine can process 26 tera operations per second (TOPS), (compared to 15 TOPS for last year's Snapdragon 865). AI is also part of the new 2nd-generation Sensing Hub, which incorporates lower-power always-on AI processing "for intuitive, intelligent features". Finally, Qualcomm promises the company's "most significant upgrade" in gaming performance.


Google Pay Gains New Payment and Money Management Tools, Digital Bank Account

Nov 18, 2020, 1:32 PM   by Rich Brome

Google today launched a major revamp of its Google Pay app with a new interface and several major new features. Instead of a stack of cards and list of transactions, the new interface centers around the people and businesses you exchange money with, with a conversation-style interface for each person, group, and business. Threads for groups include a simple "split bill" tool. New built-in tools make it easier to order food at over 100,000 restaurants, buy gas at over 30,000 gas stations, and pay for parking in over 400 cities. Participating retailers can also offer cash-back rewards and discounts that automatically appear within the app. A new Insights tab lets you explore your finances and spending in several ways, including a new search feature. It can search not only Google Pay transactions, but also — with your permission — all of your bank accounts and credit cards, as well as receipts from both Gmail and your photos. For example, you can search for "food last month" and it will show all relevant transactions as well as a total dollar amount. The new Google Pay app is available now for both Android and iOS. Finally, Google also announced Plex, "a new mobile-first bank account". Plex includes checking and savings accounts with no monthly fees, overdraft charges or minimum balance requirements. You can choose which FDIC-backed financial institution backs your account, but the Plex interface is provided by Google, within the Google Pay app. It includes tools to help you set saving goals. 11 banks and credit unions have committed to participating in Plex, and a waitlist is now available for Plex accounts backed by Citi and Stanford Federal Credit Union. Plex is very similar to Samsung Money by SoFi, which launched in July.


Google Photos Phasing Out Unlimited Photo Storage

Nov 11, 2020, 3:25 PM   by Rich Brome

Google Photos will no longer offer unlimited free backup of new "High quality" content from non-Pixel phones starting June 1, 2021. Since launch, Google Photos — available for both iOS and Android — has been unique in offering this free lifetime service. Google's definition of "High quality" means compressed copies of photos up to 16 megapixel and videos up to 1080p resolution. "High quality" content uploaded to the service before the deadline will be grandfathered and kept in the cloud for free, for life, without counting against storage limits. But starting June 2021, all new "High quality" content will be treated the same as Original quality content, counting against the 15 GB total storage available with every free Google account, shared among all Google services. Users can buy more storage with a Google One subscription. The cheapest plan offers 100 GB for $2/month. All existing Google Pixel phones are exempt from this change, and will continue to enjoy free, unlimited High quality media storage. Google says the average user will still be able to store about three years of photos with a free account, but the company also launched a simple tool offering a personalized estimate. Google is also changing its storage policies across all services. Google may delete content for a particular account/service if the user is inactive or over the storage limit for two years. The company also says it will "notify you multiple times before we attempt to remove any content so you have ample opportunities to take action." Users can easily manage storage and delete old files to make space using the Google One app.


Google Adds VPN to High-End Google One Plans

Oct 29, 2020, 2:57 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has added a VPN feature to its Google One service at the 2 TB and higher levels, which start at $10/month or $100/year. The feature will roll out in the "coming weeks" for Android, and will come to other platforms including iOS in "coming months". Like any VPN, it offers extra security when using public Wi-Fi hotspots or any untrusted internet connection.


LG K92 5G Makes 5G More Affordable in US

Oct 29, 2020, 9:31 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Oct 29, 2020, 9:52 AM

LG today unveiled the K92 5G, its entry into the growing surge of phones designed to bring 5G to more affordable price points. The K92 5G will be sold by AT&T, Cricket, and US Cellular starting at just $359, breaking the $399 barrier for the first time. The K92 5G is the second phone to be announced for the US that uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 chipset, following the OnePlus Nord N10 5G earlier this week. The 690 is specifically designed to enable more-affordable 5G phones such as these. Nokia, Motorola, and TCL have also announced that they will use the 690 in forthcoming phones. The 690 supports only sub-6 GHz 5G, not mmWave. The LG K92 5G has a large 6.7-inch full-HD display, 4,000 mAh battery, Quick Charge 4, 6 GB RAM, 128 GB storage, and a memory card slot. Its quad rear cameras include a 64 megapixel (f/1.78) main camera, 5 megapixel wide camera, 2 megapixel macro camera, and depth camera. The 16-megapixel front camera sits in a large centered hole punch. It also has a side-mounted fingerprint sensor, NFC, and stereo speakers. It will ship with Android 10. It will be available from US carriers "shortly".


Google Adds Sound Notifications to Android Accessibility Features

Oct 8, 2020, 1:44 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has added a helpful new feature to Android for anyone with hearing loss or simply wearing headphones. Sound Notifications provides push notifications for critical sounds around you, including baby sounds, water running, smoke and fire alarms, appliances beeping, dog barking, and door knocking. There's also a timeline that shows past detected noise events. The feature uses offline AI. Many Android phones already have this feature, but it can also be added by downloading both Live Transcribe and Sound Notifications from the Google Play app store.


Google Assistant Gains Customizable Actions Within Third-Party Apps

Oct 8, 2020, 1:34 PM   by Rich Brome

Google today launched third-party app integration for Google Assistant. This lets Android users perform specific actions within their favorite apps with a single "Hey Google..." command. For example, you can now say "Hey Google... new TikTok video", "send money with Venmo", "order Dunkin", "book a Lyft", "Tweet", "my friends' birthdays in Facebook", or "search cozy blankets on Etsy". Users can further customize the feature by adding their own shortcuts, such as "Hey Google, lace it" as a shortcut for "Hey Google, tighten my shoes with Nike Adapt". Users can explore and customize the new Shortcuts features by saying "Hey Google, show my shortcuts". The feature is available now on all Assistant-enabled Android phones.


New York Launches COVID-19 Exposure Notifications

Oct 1, 2020, 1:49 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Oct 2, 2020, 11:45 AM

New York State has launched COVID Alert NY, its official app enabling the COVID-19 Exposure Notification system developed by Apple and Google. New York is the largest US state to date to launch an app using the system, and joins ten other states that have already launched similar apps: Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wyoming. New York's app supports the national key server that allows Exposure Notifications to work across state lines, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Exposure Notifications is an opt-in system that uses Bluetooth to track which phones come near which other phones, how closely, and for how long. When someone reports that they have tested positive for COVID-19, the service can alert other people that may have come into contact with that person, so they can get tested as well. The service does not track users' locations, and protects privacy by using randomly-generated, frequently-changed ID codes to keep everyone anonymous. The system is more effective the more people participate. New York's app is available now for Android and iOS. Several other states are working on similar apps they plan to launch soon, including California, Colorado, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, and Washington, DC. New York's app was developed by NearForm, which also developed Exposure Notification apps for New Jersey, Scotland, and Ireland.


Amazon Enters the Ring with Luna, its Game Streaming Service

Sep 24, 2020, 5:27 PM   by Rich Brome

Amazon today announced Luna, the company's entry into the new field of cloud-based gaming. The service will be available on a variety of platforms, including iOS and Android. Starting today, gamers can sign up to request an invitation for the "early access" period that starts next month. It will cost $6/month during "early access". Final launch date and pricing were not announced. The iOS version will be available from the start and runs as a web app, thereby sidestepping the App Store policies that have tripped up Google Stadia and Microsoft xCloud on iOS. The Android version will be available in a few weeks. Although gamers can use their own Bluetooth game controllers, Luna works best with the official Luna controller, which runs $50. Like Google's Stadia controller, it connects directly to the cloud via Wi-Fi, offering lower latency. The Luna controller has built-in Alexa, which can launch games by voice, for example. Luna offers Twitch integration, and makes it easy to pause a game and pick up right where you left off on another device. Luna will offer several different "channels" of games that users can subscribe to individually. Luna+ is the channel included with a basic subscription, and will include around 50 titles at some point during the Early Access period, with more added over time. The initial slate will include Resident Evil 7, Control, Tacoma, Rez Infinite, Metro Exodus, The Sexy Brutale, Overcooked! 2, and more. Ubisoft will also offer its own channel for Luna, also with around 50 titles.


Verizon Adds TCL-Branded $80 Phone to Prepaid Lineup

Sep 24, 2020, 11:43 AM   by Rich Brome

Verizon today launched the TCL Signa, the first TCL-branded phone to be launched by one of the big three US carriers. Previously, most TCL-made phones offered in the US bore the company's Alcatel brand. Although the Signa is an $80 entry-level phone for Verizon prepaid customers, it marks a major step in TCL's effort to expand the TCL brand in the US mobile market. Verizon lists the phone as the "Alcatel TCL SIGNA" on its web site, but the phone itself bears just the TCL and Verizon logos. The Signa has a 5.5-inch HD display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 429 processor, 2 GB RAM, 16 GB storage, 3,000 mAh battery, 8 megapixel main camera, USB-C, Android 10, dedicated Google Assistant button, memory card slot, and headset jack. It's available now for $80.


Nokia Updates Entry-Level Phones

Sep 24, 2020, 8:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Nokia this week introduced two new entry-level Android phones, and started taking pre-orders for its first 5G phone.

  • Nokia 2.4: This $139 phone has a huge 4,500 mAh battery offering two-day battery life. It also sports a large 6.5-inch display with HD resolution and a notched design, rear fingerprint reader, 13 megapixel camera, depth camera, new Portrait Editor tool, NFC, MediaTek Helio P22 processor, 2 or 3 GB RAM, 32 or 64 GB storage, headset jack, and dedicated Google Assistant button. In the US, it will be available unlocked from Amazon initially, and later, Best Buy. It's available for pre-order now, shipping on October 11th.
  • Nokia 3.4: This $179 phone adds a has a 6.4-inch HD display with a hole-punch design, Qualcomm Snapdragon 460 processor, 3 GB RAM, 64 GB storage, 4,000 mAh battery, USB-C, fast charging, metal chassis, rear fingerprint reader, memory card slot, headset jack, and dedicated Google Assistant button. It will be available in the US "later this year".
  • Nokia 8.3 5G: First announced in March, the company's first 5G phone is now available for pre-order on Amazon for $699 unlocked, shipping October 26th. Like the 2.4, it will come to Best Buy in "the coming weeks".


Adobe Acrobat Reader can now Reformat PDFs for Easy Reading on Phones

Sep 23, 2020, 11:33 AM   by Rich Brome

Adobe has released a new version of its free Acrobat Reader app for iOS and Android that can intelligently reformat the content of PDF files to make it easier to read on a mobile phone. The new feature, called Liquid Mode, uses Sensei, Adobe's AI engine. It converts all content into a single column the width of the phone screen, eliminating the need to zoom in or scroll sideways. All text is automatically made large enough to read easily, and also made searchable. The tool also automatically identifies headings and sections, auto-generating a table-of-contents menu for navigating longer documents. Controls also let the user adjust the font size and line spacing.


Boost Launches New $100 Phone from Coolpad

Sep 22, 2020, 10:04 AM   by Rich Brome

Boost this week launched the Coolpad Legacy Brisa, a new Android phone for $100. It replaces the original Coolpad Legacy released in the middle of last year. It has similar design and features, but improvements include a Snapdragon 665 processor, 16 megapixel selfie camera, and a slightly larger display at 6.53 inches, thanks to a more modern notched design. Like the original Legacy, it sports full-HD display resolution, large 4,000 mAh battery, 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB storage, memory card slot, 16 megapixel main camera, rear fingerprint reader, and USB-C.


US Carriers Launch ZenKey, a Network-Based Login for Apps

Sep 17, 2020, 10:24 AM   by Rich Brome

Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile have officially launched ZenKey, a new way quickly log in to apps that leverages the authentication that happens automatically every time your phone connects to the cellular network. Apps must be updated to support ZenKey, and developers have the option of enabling ZenKey as the primary login, or as the second token in two-factor logins, replacing PIN codes sent my text message, for example. Customers must also download the ZenKey app (available for both iOS and Android) to start using ZenKey. Currently, only a handful of apps support ZenKey login, (mostly the carriers' own apps,) but carriers hope more apps will add support.


Android Go Updated to be More Efficient on More Devices

Sep 10, 2020, 2:34 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has announced the Android 11 version of Android Go, the special edition of Android tailored for the most affordable devices with limited memory specs. While previous versions of Android Go were targeted at phones with just 1 GB of RAM, Android 11 (Go edition) will also be made available to phones with up to 2 GB of RAM. This change accommodates features such as fingerprint readers and dual cameras, which are increasingly common on entry-level phones, and require extra RAM. In version 11, apps now launch 20% faster. Google also continues to shave down the RAM and storage required by the OS itself, making available 270 MB more RAM for apps, and 900 MB additional free storage space. The new OS includes many of the key features of standard Android 11, including new privacy controls and a dedicated notification area for conversations. Android 11 (Go edition) will be available starting next month.


Motorola Updates razr with Better Specs, Refined Design

Sep 9, 2020, 2:00 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Sep 15, 2020, 12:03 PM

Motorola today revealed the 2020 edition of its razr foldable phone, with upgraded specs across the board and a tweaked design. The general design is largely similar to the 2019 original, including the same flexible inner display and folding mechanism. The hinge has been tweaked with slightly more enclosed gears and is rated for 200,000 flips. The design is sleeker thanks to a 3D curved Gorilla Glass 5 front, and a chin made thinner by moving the fingerprint reader to the back. The frame is now made from 7000 series aluminum instead of stainless steel. Spec bumps include the addition of 5G, a larger battery (2,800 mAh), much better cameras (48 megapixel main with laser auto-focus and OIS + 20 megapixel selfie), Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor, 8 GB RAM, and 256 GB storage. The new razr has the same 2.7-inch, high-resolution touchscreen on the outside, which can run scaled-down versions of select Android apps. The outer interface includes a new navigation bar at the bottom and a customizable app menu. The revamped camera app includes a customizable mode carousel. 5G support includes bands 2, 5, 25, 41, 66, 71, and 78. The new Motorola razr will be offered by both AT&T and T-Mobile, a change from last year's model that was exclusive to Verizon. It will also be available unlocked for $1,400 from motorola.com, Best Buy, B&H Photo, and Amazon. It will be available in Blush Gold, Polished Graphite, and Liquid Mercury (shown). Motorola would only cite "this fall" as the launch timeframe.


CAT S42 is Fully Washable

Sep 9, 2020, 8:00 AM   by Rich Brome

CAT today launched the S42, its latest "mid-range" rugged phone, for sale unlocked in the US. Like most CAT phones, it's rugged and waterproof (IP68), but also fully washable with soap and water. It's rated for 6-foot drops onto steel, and also meets US military spec for thermal shock, vibration, humidity, and salt mist. It has a large 4,200 mAh battery and NFC. Its 5.5-inch HD screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 5 and works with both gloves and wet fingers. Other specs include a MediaTek Helio A20 chip, 3 GB RAM, 32 GB storage, memory card slot, LTE Cat. 6, dual-band Wi-Fi, and VoLTE. It ships with Android 10 plus a commitment to an Android 11 update. It also has a programmable side button, headset jack, and micro-USB connector. It has good support for AT&T's 4G network including band 14, and good support for T-Mobile's 4G network including bands 25, 26, 41, 66, and 71. It's available now for $329, from catphones.com and multiple online retailers.


Android 11 is Here

Sep 8, 2020, 1:27 PM   by Rich Brome

Google is launching Android 11 today, having completed the beta period. The new OS will begin rolling out today on select Pixel and OnePlus phones, with more partners launching and upgrading devices over the coming months. Key features of Android 11 include:

  • New treatment for "conversation"-related notifications from messaging apps, including a dedicated area in the Notifications shade, and Bubbles, which lets you briefly view a conversation thread as a pop-up overlay, without leaving the app you're in.
  • Privacy improvements, including the ability to grant apps one-time access to sensitive permissions, an "auto-reset" of permissions for apps that haven't been used in a while, and an extra steps required to enable background access to location. Google will also start requiring that developers obtain explicit permission from Google before their app is allowed to ask for background access to location.
  • A revamped screen when the lock button is pressed provides quick access to smart-home device controls.
  • Support for digital IDs, including digital driver's licenses.
  • Support for wireless Android Auto on all phones.
  • New media controls that make it easier to switch output device.
  • New screenshot tools, including built-in screen recording on all phones. On Pixel phones, Android 11 brings a new feature when taking a screenshot that lets you easily copy an image or text to the clipboard instead.
  • For phones linked to a company network, the personal/work Profiles features has several improvements. New Personal/Work tabs have been added to several places including the Share pop-up sheet. A new API available to apps will allow certain apps to present both work and personal data together, while protecting both company data and employee privacy. Google Calendar will support this feature, and third-party apps will be able to support it as well.
  • New APIs allowing apps to better support new display technologies, including "waterfall" displays that wrap around the side, and variable refresh rates.
Further, on Google Pixel phones, Android 11 brings a new feature called Live View with Location Sharing. When someone sends you their location, the feature uses AR to show you exactly where that person is in the real world, how far away they are, and can guide you to them, even in parks or the wilderness.


Google Bringing its Phone app to More Android Phones

Sep 8, 2020, 11:09 AM   by Rich Brome

Google is making its own Phone app available to "even more Android devices" starting this week. Google's Phone app offers Google's unique Verified Calls feature, which shows the caller’s name, logo, reason for calling and a verification symbol indicating the business has been authenticated by Google for incoming calls from participating businesses. The Google Phone app comes pre-loaded on Pixel and select other Android phones, but many manufacturers pre-load their own Phone app on their phones. Google's app hasn't been made available to most such phones before now.


New Alcatel Apprise for Cricket is $70

Sep 4, 2020, 12:40 PM   by Rich Brome

Cricket today launched the Alcatel Apprise, a new Android 10 Go Edition phone that sells for just $70. Android Go Edition is optimized for affordable phones with limited memory, like the Apprise with its 2 GB RAM and 16 GB storage. The Apprise has a memory card slot, 5.5-inch SD display, 3,000 mAh battery, MediaTek MT6739 processor, and 5 megapixel cameras front and back. It also has a dedicated Google Assistant button on the side.


Apple, Google Launch Simpler COVID-19 Exposure Notifications

Sep 1, 2020, 11:31 AM   by Rich Brome

Google and Apple are updating their COVID-19 Exposure Notification system to support US states that have yet to develop their own Exposure Notification app. While the initial release of Exposure Notifications required countries or states to release their own app supporting the system, the new Exposure Notifications Express removes that requirement. States must still opt in to the system, but once they do, most iOS and Android phones in that state will receive a push notification inviting them to opt in to the system. On iOS, opting in will activate the new Exposure Notifications Express feature built in to the just-released iOS 13.7. Android users opting in will be prompted to download an app from Google to enable the feature. As with all variants of Exposure Notifications, privacy is protected since personal-identifying and location data is neither collected nor sent to states. Instead, randomly-generated ID numbers are exchanged with nearby phones via short-range Bluetooth, to keep track of which phones are near which other phones, and for how long. When someone enrolled in the system self-reports that they have tested positive for COVID-19, others enrolled in the system that have been near that person are notified, so they can seek testing. Maryland, Nevada, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. have already announced that they will participate, while six states have already released their own apps to enable Exposure Notifications.


T-Mobile's New REVVL Lineup Includes a 5G Phone for $400

Aug 27, 2020, 10:09 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Aug 27, 2020, 11:14 AM

T-Mobile today introduced three new models in its own-branded REVVL series: the REVVL 4, REVVL 4+, and REVVL 5G. The REVVL 5G will sell for $400 — or $200 with a new line of service — making it the most affordable 5G phone in the US to date. All three phones run Android 10 and have a fingerprint sensor.

  • REVVL 5G: Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 chip and a 4,500 mAh battery. Key specs include 6.53-inch full-HD display, 6 GB RAM, 128 GB storage, and triple rear cameras. The main camera has a 48 megapixel sensor, joined by an 8-megapixel wide camera and 5 megapixel macro camera. A 16 megapixel front camera sits behind a corner hole-punch in the display.
  • REVVL 4+: Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 chip and a 4,000 mAh battery. Key specs include 6.52-inch HD display, 4 GB RAM, and 64 GB storage. The main camera has a 16 megapixel sensor. A 16-megapixel front camera is located in a display notch. It will sell for $192.
  • REVVL 4: Powered by a MediaTek Helio A22 chip and a 3,500 mAh battery. Key specs include 6.22-inch full-HD display, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB storage, 13 megapixel main camera, and 5 megapixel front camera. It runs $120.
All three new REVVL phones will be available starting September 4th from both T-Mobile and Metro. As we reported two months ago, TCL is making some or all of these new phones. TCL also makes phones under the Alcatel brand and has made several previous generations of REVVL phones for T-Mobile.


Blu's New $200 Phone is Optimized for Gaming

Aug 26, 2020, 12:01 PM   by Rich Brome

The Blu G90 Pro is a $200 gaming phone. It's powered by a MediaTek Helio G90T processor, a chip introduced last year specifically to power affordable gaming phones such as the Blu G90 Pro. The phone also has a huge 5,000 mAh battery and supports 18W fast charging. The 6.5-inch display has full-HD resolution. It has 4 GB RAM, 128 GB storage, and a memory card slot. It has a 48 megapixel main camera with a Sony sensor, 8 megapixel wide camera, 2 megapixel macro camera, depth camera, and a 32 megapixel selfie camera. It also has USB-C, rear fingerprint reader, and Android 10. It's available in Purple Haze starting today from Amazon.


5G BlackBerry Coming in 2021

Aug 19, 2020, 7:00 AM   by Rich Brome

A new company, OnwardMobility, is picking up the BlackBerry torch. OnwardMobility is licensing the BlackBerry brand and promises a 5G BlackBerry phone with a physical keyboard in North America and Europe in the first half of 2021. OnwardMobility will be responsible for product planning and market development, while FIH Mobile — a subsidiary of Foxconn — will handle design and manufacturing, "under strict guidelines to ensure component, device and supply chain integrity." The last company to make BlackBerry-branded phones was TCL, which launched a handful of Android-based BlackBerry phones from 2016 to 2018.


Samsung Commits to Three Major OS Updates on All Premium Phones

Aug 18, 2020, 10:58 AM   by Rich Brome

Samsung has provided key details on a new commitment to offer major new versions of Android to existing phones. All Galaxy S, Galaxy Note, and Galaxy Z (foldable) series devices will receive "three generations of Android operating system (OS) upgrades". For example, current models that shipped with Android 10 will receive an update to Android 11, plus the next two major versions. Higher-end Galaxy A models — such as the A51 and A71 — are also included, as well as last year's models (the S10 and Note10 series) and the original Galaxy Fold. Samsung also revealed that the S20 series will be its first models to receive the Android 11 update, "with other devices to follow shortly thereafter." Samsung briefly mentioned the new commitment during its Note20 launch event, but did not elaborate on the details until today.


Cricket Ovation Brings a few Extras at $130

Aug 17, 2020, 4:02 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Aug 17, 2020, 4:11 PM

Cricket's latest self-branded phone is the Cricket Ovation. While many carrier-branded phones are absolutely entry-level — like last year's Cricket Icon — the Ovation is slightly higher-end, with a 4,000 mAh battery, triple rear cameras, NFC, 3 GB RAM, dual-band Wi-Fi, fingerprint reader, and USB-C. It has a large, modern 6.5-inch display with a small notch and HD resolution. Like the Icon, the Ovation is manufactured by Tinno Mobile, which owns the Wiko brand and also makes phones for Blu. Other features of the Ovation include a MediaTek Helio P22 processor, 32 GB storage, memory card slot, Android 10, headset jack, and Gorilla Glass 5 on the front. It's available now from Cricket for $130. Like all Cricket-branded phones, it's covered by Cricket's two-year "Worry Free" warranty.


Fortnite's Biggest Battle Yet: App Stores

Aug 13, 2020, 3:37 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Aug 14, 2020, 10:04 AM

Epic Games, the maker of popular battle royale game Fortnite, has filed suit against Apple and Google for anti-competitive and monopolistic behavior related to their app store policies. Epic is challenging the companies' monopolies on both app purchases and in-app purchases on their respective mobile platforms, and their 30% cut of such purchases. Instead of monetary damages, Epic is asking the courts to force the companies to change their policies. In apparent preparation for the suit, this morning Epic started offering a discount for players who purchased in-app content directly from Epic, instead of via the standard in-app purchase systems provided on iOS and Android, in violation of Apple and Google's policies. Apple quickly responded by pulling Fortnite from the App Store. Google pulled Fortnite from its Play Store hours later. Epic initially resisted listing Fortnite in Google's Play Store in protest of these policies, before relenting this April. Fortnite can still be installed on Android phones by working around the Play Store, but it can no longer be installed on iOS devices. Existing installations on both platforms still function for now.


Microsoft's Surface Duo is a new Category of Android Device

Aug 12, 2020, 10:04 AM   by Rich Brome

Microsoft is finally ready to launch the unique, dual-screen Surface Duo device it first revealed almost a year ago. The Android 10 device has two 5.6-inch OLED displays, joined by a narrow 360º hinge, which can work together as one 8.1-inch display. Microsoft has customized both the Android OS, and its suite of productivity apps for Android, to enable new dual-screen functionality. The Surface Duo will launch September 10th starting at $1399. It has excellent support for the 4G networks of AT&T and Verizon, and decent support for T-Mobile's 4G network, although it does not support band 71. It will be available unlocked as well as from AT&T. Key specs include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, 6 GB of RAM, 128 or 256 GB of storage, Cat. 18 LTE, 3,577 mAh battery capacity, 18W fast charging, fingerprint reader, and USB-C 3.1 including video output to DisplayPort or HDMI. It has an 11 megapixel camera that supports 1080p video conferencing and 4K video capture. The 360º hinge lets the single camera face inward or outward. When open, the Surface Duo is just 4.8mm thick.

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Google Improves Lookout, its App for Blind and Low-Vision People

Aug 11, 2020, 10:48 AM   by Rich Brome

Google has added several major features to Lookout, its app that uses computer vision to help people who are blind or low-vision. The new features include the ability to scan longer documents into readable text, identify food products from their labels, and automatic flash. The updated Lookout app is available now for Android 6+ devices with over 2 GB of RAM.


Google Adds Bedtime Features to its Clock App

Aug 11, 2020, 10:43 AM   by Rich Brome

Google has updated its own Clock app with a Bedtime tab to help users maintain a consistent sleep schedule. The feature initially debuted on Pixel phones, but is now available for all Android (version 6+) phones. The new tab includes the ability to track your screen time at night, fall asleep to a variety of soothing sounds, and wake up more gently with visual cues from the Sunrise Alarm and your favorite sounds or song. It works in concert with the Bedtime features built into the Android OS, which remind you when it's time for bed and limit interruptions by keeping your phone dark and quiet while you sleep.


Google Turning Android Phones Into Earthquake Detection Network

Aug 11, 2020, 10:30 AM   by Rich Brome

Google is launching two new earthquake-related features on Android today. First, Google is enabling Android phones in California to receive alerts from the state's ShakeAlert early-detection network. In many cases, the notifications can give users a few seconds of warning before an earthquake, enough time to find cover. Second, Google has launched its own earthquake-detection system that uses the accelerometers in Android phones. Starting today, if "the phone detects something that it thinks may be an earthquake, it sends a signal to our earthquake detection server, along with a coarse location of where the shaking occurred. The server then combines information from many phones to figure out if an earthquake is happening." Eventually, Google plans to use this new data to power a notification system like the one in California. But initially, the system will only feed Google search results for searches such as "earthquake" or "earthquake near me".


Google Bringing Calendar, New App Categories to Android Auto

Aug 11, 2020, 10:06 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Aug 11, 2020, 10:14 AM

Google has added a Calendar app to Android Auto, and is working to allow navigation, parking, and EV charging apps from third-party developers. The Calendar app makes it easy to get driving directions to locations saved in calendar events, and call phone numbers saved with events. The company has also added a new Settings app to Android Auto. For the additional categories, Google is working with developers such as ChargePoint, SpotHero and Sygic to launch beta apps by the end of this year. The move follows Apple's announcement in June that it will allow parking, EV charging, and fast food ordering apps in CarPlay with the launch of iOS 14.


Galaxy Note20 Series Focuses on Video, Note-Taking

Aug 5, 2020, 9:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Samsung today revealed its latest Galaxy Note phones: the Galaxy Note20 and Galaxy Note20 Ultra. On the software side, the new Note phones include an overhauled Samsung Notes app with free cloud sync, PDF annotation, nested folder structure, personalized handwriting neaten-ing, sound recordings time-synced with your own notes, and sync with both OneNote and Outlook. The S Pen supports five new gestures, allowing general Android navigation using only the S Pen as a remote control. The Note20 series also includes advanced video features such as 8K video capture, multi-track audio including remote mics (USB or Bluetooth), manual controls, variable-speed zoom, and the ability to use the extra mics in the new Galaxy Buds Live earbuds to better cancel out background noise. Updated Link to Windows integration now lets you access your mobile apps directly from your Windows 10 PC. The Note20 series also features 120 Hz display refresh, brighter screens, Snapdragon 865+ processor, 25W fast charging, 15W wireless charging, 5G (including mmWave in most versions), and IP68 water resistance. The standard Note20 has a more rounded design, flat 6.7-inch FHD+ display, 4,300 mAh battery, 8 GB RAM, and 128 GB storage. The Note20 Ultra has a more sharp-cornered design, 6.9-inch QHD+ display with curved sides and the new Gorilla Glass Victus, 4,500 mAh battery, 12 GB RAM, 128 or 512 GB storage, and a memory card slot. The Ultra also adds UWB for precise relative positioning, similar to a feature introduced in the iPhone 11. At launch, the Note20 Ultra will support UWB for Point To Share file-sharing and digital key applications, with more uses planned. On the camera side, the two models take different approaches to implementing zoom, much like the S20 series. The standard model has a 12 megapixel standard camera, plus a 64 megapixel camera for 8K video and up to 3x real zoom. The Ultra model has a 108 megapixel main camera for 8K video and 1–4x zoom, plus a 5x optical tele camera (12 megapixel). Samsung's "Space Zoom" adds 10x digital zoom, for total zoom of 30x on the Note20 and 50x on the Ultra. Both models also have a 12 megapixel wide camera and 10 megapixel selfie camera with auto-focus. The standard model will come in Mystic Bronze, Mystic Green, and Mystic Gray, while the Ultra will come in Mystic Bronze, Mystic Black, and Mystic White. Select colors have a "haze" effect matte finish that resists fingerprints. Pre-orders start August 6th, will full availability on the 21st. The Note20 Ultra will start at $1300, while the standard Note20 will start at $1000. Most US carriers will offer the Note20 series, including Verizon and Xfinity Mobile. The phones will also be available unlocked. All pre-orders include a credit to spend with Samsung on accessories, etc.: $100 for the Note20 and $150 for the Ultra. The credit can be used for an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Bundle, which includes a Bluetooth game controller and 3 months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate with cloud gaming.


Nearby Share, Google's Answer to AirDrop, Comes to Android

Aug 4, 2020, 12:03 PM   by Rich Brome

Google today announced Nearby Share, a new feature being added to Android 6 and newer that makes it easier to share files with other Android devices nearby. There are controls over visibility to prevent unwanted file transfer requests, and each transfer can be accepted or declined. The feature automatically selects the best technology to execute the transfer quickly, utilizing Bluetooth, Bluetooth LE, WebRTC, or peer-to-peer Wi-Fi. Google Pixel and certain Samsung phones will receive the feature starting today. Google "will continue to work with our partners to bring Nearby Share to more smartphones in the Android ecosystem over the next few weeks."


Xbox Cloud Gaming Launching on Android September 15th

Aug 4, 2020, 11:15 AM   by Rich Brome

Microsoft's Project xCloud cloud-based game-streaming service will officially launch September 15th as a "cloud gaming" feature included with the new Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription service. Game Pass Ultimate costs $15/month, with an intro price of $1 for the first month. In addition to cloud gaming, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate includes access to more than 100 high-quality games for console and PC; exclusive member discounts, deals, perks, and Xbox Live Gold. Cloud gaming will be available via the "Xbox Game Pass" app for Android. An iOS version is planned, but not yet available. Razer and other companies are developing new phone accessories designed to work with the service, including "different types of phone clips..., travel controllers..., and exclusive Xbox-branded controllers that split apart and attach to the side of your phone." The new cloud gaming service replaces the Project xCloud "preview", which will end September 11th. Microsoft also revealed that it will have related news to share at tomorrow's Samsung event, where the next Note-series phone is expected to be announced.


WhatsApp Launches Fact-Checking Feature for Forwarded Messages

Aug 4, 2020, 10:57 AM   by Rich Brome

WhatsApp is adding to its features to fight the spread of misinformation. Already, messages forwarded more than five times have a special icon. Now, those messages will also have a search button next to them. The new "search the web" button performs a Google search on the relevant info, to enable message recipients to perform their own fact-checking. The feature is being rolled out starting today in the US, Brazil, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, and UK, for those on the latest versions of WhatsApp for Android and iOS.


Netflix Adding Speed Controls to Mobile Apps

Aug 2, 2020, 2:42 PM   by Rich Brome

Netflix is rolling out variable speed playback to its mobile apps, starting with a rollout to Android users over the next few weeks. The company plans to test the feature with its iOS app and web playback as well. Four new playback speeds are available: 0.5x, 0.75x, 1.25x, and 1.5x. Similar features have been available in YouTube and podcast apps for some time.


Google, Apple Tweak COVID-19 Exposure Notifications to be More Useful

Jul 31, 2020, 2:14 PM   by Rich Brome

Google today provided an update on the quickly-evolving Exposure Notifications System (ENS) they developed and launched in partnership with Apple to augment pandemic contact tracing efforts. The system now supports interoperability between countries and states, including a "national key server" run by the Association of Public Health Laboratories to allow the system to work across the 20 US states and territories using ENS with their own official public health apps. Also, "Bluetooth calibration values for hundreds of devices have been updated to improve the detection of nearby devices". As always, ENS is completely anonymous, does not track your location, and is opt-in. Google also explained the technical reasons users may be asked to turn on "location services" to use ENS, even though ENS does not us location data and ENS apps are prohibited from collecting location data. At a system level, in Android 10 and earlier, permission for an app to use Bluetooth is linked to "location services" because the app may connect to Bluetooth beacons, which are intended to mark locations. But ENS apps are prohibited from gathering this data. In Android 11, ENS apps will be given an exemption that allows the location services setting to remain off, since those apps cannot collect such data.


Google Offers New Free Backup Options for iOS and Android

Jul 30, 2020, 8:54 AM   by Rich Brome

Google has sweetened its Google One service to offer full, automatic phone backup for free for all Android phones. (Full automatic phone backup previously required a paid subscription.) The company is also launching a Google One app for iOS, which will offer a free backup service and storage manager for that platform. On iOS, Google One will be able to back up photos, videos, contacts, and calendar events. The Google One service on both platforms uses the 15 GB of storage that comes free with all Google accounts. Google One will continue to offer paid subscriptions that offer more storage and enhanced support.


Google Messages Adds Reactions

Jul 22, 2020, 2:14 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jul 22, 2020, 2:14 PM

Google has updated Messages — its own standards-based rich messaging app for Android — to support emoji-like message reactions, similar to the reactions features in iMessage and Facebook. Available reactions are: like, love, laughter, surprise, sadness, anger, and dislike. The feature only works in "conversations with chat features enabled", referring to message threads using rich messaging (RCS) instead of standard text messaging SMS. Google and some US carriers have been increasingly supporting RCS on new Android phones in the past couple of years.


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