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.
AT&T today launched sales of the Kyocera DuraForce Pro 2, an extra-rugged Android phone with waterproof body and a non-incendive rating. The 5-inch, full-HD display works through gloves and when wet. It has a 13-megapixel main camera plus wide-angle camera, fingerprint reader, NFC, barometer, memory card slot, wireless charging, and fast charging via USB-C. It utilizes a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor with 4 GB of RAM and supports LTE Cat. 9 on all AT&T bands, including band 14 supporting FirstNet, as well as bands 29 and 30. It's powered by a 3,240 mAh non-removable battery. Verizon launched its own version of the phone in November. AT&T is offering the DuraForce Pro 2 today via online and business channels for $450.
The Opera web browser for Android now includes a free VPN service, for securing data over untrusted networks such as public Wi-Fi. Opera for Android version 51 includes the feature, which is activated with a simple toggle, requiring no sign-in nor account. Opera lets users choose from one of several VPN server locations around the world, and does not log user activity. Opera for Android also includes an ad blocker. The new Opera app is available now from the Play Store.
Google today announced a new, cloud-based service called Stadia that lets people play high-quality games on any device without downloading them. It also caters to people who like to watch others play games, in a way that's integrated with YouTube and competes with Twitch. The service supports high-end 3D games (such as Assassin's Creed) at up to 4K / 60 fps, on any device that supports Chrome, including Android phones, tablets, low-end desktops, and TVs with certain Chromecast dongles. It supports existing input devices, as well as a new Stadia Controller that links directly to the cloud via Wi-Fi. The controller has a headset jack, share/stream button, and Google Assistant button. Games run in Google Cloud datacenters, on special Linux-based Stadia instances that have twice the graphics performance of a modern game console such as the Xbox One X or PS4 Pro. The YouTube integration allows gamers to jump right into a multi-player game directly from a livestream. It supports advanced split-screen features, and the ability to share a playable game moment with other players with simple links. Stadia also supports cross-platform features to link to other game platforms.
Google has released the first beta version of Android Q for Pixel phones. It's intended for developers to start working on app compatibility, and doesn't necessarily include all of the eventual consumer-facing features of the OS. Android Q will bring privacy, security, and performance enhancements. It also adds native support for peer-to-peer Wi-Fi, extended caller-ID and robocall-blocking features, foldable phones, and photo depth maps. It improves support for password managers. It also lets users easily activate certain hardware features (mobile data, wi-fi, NFC, and sound) at the moment an app requires those features, using simple pop-ups instead of needing to dive into the full Settings app. The beta is available now for all Pixel phones, including the very first models.
The Sony PlayStation 4 Remote Play app is now available for iOS, accompanied by a corresponding update to the software for the PS4 itself. The app allows users to stream games from their PS4 console to an iOS mobile device over Wi-Fi. The graphics for compatible games are streamed in real-time, overlaid with on-screen controls. The app also lets gamers use the mic and keyboard of their mobile device to interact with games. It requires an iPhone 7 or later, and iOS 12.1 or later. An Android version of the app has been available for several years, but is restricted to Sony's Xperia phones.
Google is making it easier for game developers to add video ads that reward players with in-game currency (coins, points, etc.) or other benefits. The feature is called Rewarded Products and launches today in beta as a new API within Google Play, Google's suite of gaming-oriented APIs and services for Android games. As an example, a player might choose "watch ad" in the game, view a video, and then is granted 100 "coins" to use in the game. While full-screen video ads are the only product at the moment, other options for developers are planned.
The W3C standards group has certified WebAuthn as an official web standard. WebAuthn enables web site logins that are both easier and more secure than passwords. Multiple authentication methods are supported, including biometric options on mobile devices, such as fingerprint readers. It's already supported in Android, Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and the preview version of Apple Safari. The standard enables biometric web site login on both desktop and mobile browsers, and also enables using your phone as an authentication tool to log into web sites on a desktop/laptop.
Excel for phones now lets users import table data directly into spreadsheets from a photo taken with the phone's camera. Microsoft announced the feature last September. It's rolling out now for the Android version of the app, "with iOS support coming soon". The feature lets users take a new photo from within the app, or import an image already on the phone. They can then crop to the table, then review the import for errors in a split-screen mode.
Google is removing the relatively insecure Voice Match security option from existing Android phones. Previously, older Pixel and Moto phones offered the option to secure a phone with voiceprint and fully unlock it by saying "OK Google". But the method wasn't very secure; it could be fooled by a recording of the owner's voice. When users update to the newest version of the Google app, this option will be replaced by a new, limited Google Assistant interface on the lock screen. Its options include accessing certain email results, calendar events, contacts, reminders, and shopping lists. But other Assistant features like playing music will be unavailable without fully unlocking the phone via a different method.
Sony's new phones have unusually tall screens with a 21:9 aspect ratio. The company today announced the Xperia 1, 10, and 10 Plus. The 1 is the new flagship, while the 10 and 10 Plus fill out the mid-range. All three phones ship with Android 9 Pie, support USB-C PD fast charging, and have at least two rear cameras, NFC, Bluetooth 5, memory card slot, and a fingerprint reader.
- Xperia 1: The company's new flagship has a 6.5-inch HDR OLED display with 4K resolution (1644 x 3840). It has three rear cameras: standard, wide, and 2x telephoto, all of which are 12 megapixel. The main camera supports 960 fps slow-motion video. It's powered by a Snapdragon 855 processor and 6 GB of RAM. It has a 3,330 mAh battery, water resistance, LTE Cat. 19, USB 3.1, Miracast, and support for PS4 Remote Play.
- Xperia 10: This mid-range model has a 6-inch full-HD+ display, 13-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel depth camera, 2,870 mAh battery, Snapdragon 630 processor, 3 GB of RAM, 64 GB storage, and Cat. 13 LTE.
- Xperia 10 Plus: A step up from the 10, it has a larger 6.5-inch display, 3,000 mAh battery, Snapdragon 636 processor, 4 GB of RAM, a better 12-megapixel main camera, and 8-megapixel 2x telephoto camera.
The new LG G8 ThinQ has a 3D depth camera on the front that can sense and recognize detailed hand gestures such as turning a virtual knob in mid-air. The same sensor also provides two different kinds of biometric security: hand vein scanning and 3D face scanning. The sensor also provides a superior selfie portrait mode. LG calls it "Z Camera", referring to "z" as the axis of depth. There's also a fingerprint reader on the back, and all three biometrics (finger, face, and hand) can be active at the same time. The phone uses the whole top half of the display as a speaker, serving as the earpiece during calls, and one of two stereo speakers when watching video. The design is largely similar to last year's G7, but with a sleeker back that puts the standard and wide cameras completely under the smooth glass back. As LG's main flagship phone for 2019, the G8 ThinQ has a 6.1" quad-HD+ OLED display, Snapdragon 855 processor, 6 GB of RAM, 128 GB built-in storage, 32-bit Hi-Fi Quad DAC, IP68 water resistance, and Android 9 (Pie). It has both a 3.5mm audio jack and a memory card slot. The battery rates 3,500 mAh and it supports Quick Charge 3.0. The main camera is 12 megapixels with an f/1.5 aperture, while the wide-angle camera has 16 megapixels and an f/1.9 aperture. A new night mode combines 10 burst shots into one, to reduce noise. It can also apply a bokeh (blurred background) effect to video. The standard portrait mode is adjustable and has studio-effect options. The G8 will be available from major US carriers, including T-Mobile, and national retailers "in the coming weeks", available in black, silver, and red.
Nokia today introduced five new phones, all of which run a clean version of Android One, with a promise of three years of Android updates. The new range includes a unique new camera-oriented flagship, three very affordable Android models, and one feature phone.
- Nokia 9 PureView: A high-end, photography-focused phone with an array of five Zeiss-lens, 12-megapixel cameras on the back developed in cooperation with multi-sensor camera company Light. Three of the sensors are monochrome, to capture more light. It can capture HDR photos with a range of up to 12.4 f-stops. It can also capture detailed depth data, for precise bokeh effects that can be adjusted in Google Photos. At the maximum, it can produce images up to 240 megapixels. It can also produce RAW images that can be edited with Adobe Lightroom on the phone. The glass-and-metal design is 8mm thick, with no camera bump. It's rated IP67 for water resistance, and has an under-display fingerprint reader, 6 GB pf RAM, 128 GB of storage, wireless charging, and a 6-inch QHD OLED display that supports HDR10. It will ship in March, in Midnight Blue, for $699.
- Nokia 4.2: This mid-range phone has a premium design with sculpted glass on the front and back, a 5.7-inch HD display with a small notch, NFC, a Snapdragon 439 processor, 13-megapixel camera plus secondary depth camera, fingerprint reader, face unlock, Google Lens and a dedicated Google Assistant button, and a unique lock button that doubles as a notification light. Available in April, in black and pink sand, for $169.
- Nokia 3.2: This more-affordable model has a polycarbonate unibody design, large 6.26-inch HD+ display, 4,000 mAh battery for 2-day battery life, 13 megapixel camera, Snapdragon 429 processor, fingerprint reader, face unlock, Google Lens and a Google Assistant button, and a light-up lock button like the 4.2. Available in April, in black and "steel", for $139.
- Nokia 1 Plus: A smartphone that sells for just $99. It runs Android 9 Go Edition, has a 5.4-inch display, and compared to the 1, the camera has been upgraded to 8 megapixel auto-focus. Available in red, black, and blue, in early March.
- Nokia 210: This $35 feature phone has a candy-bar design, and has a camera, games, and an app store. Available in red, gray, and black.
The new Alcatel 1s, 3, and 3L improve the specs of Alcatel's most affordable Android phones with features like more RAM, and taller displays with a notch. Although these specific models aren't coming to the US, such models often come to the US as carrier-exclusive models with minor spec changes.
- 1s: Similar to the 1x announced at CES, (which came to Cricket as the Onyx,) but with 3 GB of RAM, automatic scene detection in the camera app, an octa-core processor (Spreadtrum SC9863A), and Android 9 (Pie). Like the 1x, it has a 5.5" tall (2:1 ratio) HD display, dual rear cameras, and a fingerprint reader.
- 3: Has a taller (19.5:9) display thanks to a small notch for the selfie camera. It's also HD and measures 5.9 inches. It comes in two mirrored gradient finishes: blue-purple and black-blue. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 439 processor and 3 GB of RAM. It has dual rear cameras, a fingerprint reader, and a 3,500 mAh battery. It also has both a memory card slot and 3.5mm audio jack.
- 3L: Identical to the 3, but with 2GB of RAM and a textured back. Some versions leave out the fingerprint reader as well. (not shown)
Samsung today announced the Galaxy Fold, the company's first commercial phone with a flexible display that folds in half. Folded, it resembles a thick smartphone with 4.6-inch HD Super AMOLED display; unfolded, it approximates a tablet in size and form factor, with a 7.3" "Infinity Flex" Dynamic AMOLED display. App Continuity allows users to start an Android app on the outer screen, then open the phone and continue uninterrupted on the larger screen. The inner screen also supports up to three apps side-by-side. It's powered by a Snapdragon 855 processor with 12 GB of RAM, and comes with 512 GB of storage. It also supports UFS 3.0 for faster storage access. Its two batteries total 4,380 mAh, and it supports fast wireless and wired charging. It has six cameras and a fingerprint reader on the side. The camera arrays are the same as on the new Galaxy S10+, including standard, wide, and tele cameras on the back, plus 10 megapixel selfie cameras on both the front and inside. The 4G LTE version will go on sale April 26th for $1,980, and a 5G version will also be available. Both AT&T and T-Mobile will offer the Galaxy Fold in the second quarter of this year. The phone comes in Cosmos Black, Space Silver, Martian Green, and Astro Blue, with choice of hinge color for further personalization.
Originally an Android-based OS for any smart-home or IoT device, Google has now decided that Android Things will be limited to smart speakers and smart displays with Google Assistant built in. As a result, Google is withdrawing support for several hardware platforms. The company just finalized Android Things 1.0 last May and promised three years of OS updates for some of the platforms it is now dropping.
After holding out longer than most auto makers, Toyota's new 2020 lineup includes, for the first time, a variety of models that support both Apple CarPlay and Google's Android Auto. The new models include the 2020 4Runner, Sequoia, Tacoma, and Tundra. Last year's Avalon supported CarPlay, but not Android Auto. The two technologies are comparable, letting the driver sync their phone to the car and display an interface on the dash touchscreen that's driven by the phone, and includes voice control. The interfaces are tailored to driving, with a focus on navigation, music, and basic communication. Other car companies already supporting both CarPlay and Android Auto are: Chrysler (and Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Ram), Ford (and Lincoln), GM (Buick, Cadillac, Chevy, GMC), Honda (and Acura), Hyundai (and Kia), Jaguar, Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, VW (and Audi), and Volvo.
Moto's new g-series phones bring up-to-date features, upgraded specs, and clean Google software to three models ranging from $200 to $300. This year's series moves to a notched-screen design, steps up to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 processor, and supports USB-C across the board. They will all launch with Android 9 (Pie). All three will eventually come to US carriers, most by this spring.
- Moto g7 play: The most affordable at $199, it has a 5.7" HD display, 3,000 mAh battery, fast charging, fingerprint reader, 13 megapixel camera, 2 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, memory card slot, 3.5mm headset jack, and FM radio. It will be available from Boost, Virgin, US Cellular, Ting, and Republic, as well as unlocked from most major retailers.
- Moto g7 power: The main feature is its huge 5,000 mAh battery, which Motorola claims will last for three days. It builds on the specs of the g7 play, stepping up to a larger 6.2" display, 3 GB of RAM, and a higher-quality 12-megapixel camera. It will be available for $249 from Verizon, T-Mobile, Metro, Cricket, Xfinity Mobile, Republic, Ting, and Consumer Cellular, as well as unlocked from most major retailers.
- Moto g7: Higher-end but with a normal-size (3,000 mAh) battery, this flagship of the g series has a curved glass back, full-HD 6.2" display with a smaller notch, 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, 4K video capture, and dual cameras for portrait effects. It also has a more advanced camera app, with new features like automatic group smile capture, hi-res digital zoom using multiple frames, hyperlapse video, and RAW output. The camera also integrates with YouTube Live and Google Lens. It will be available unlocked from most major retailers for $299 this spring, followed by launches with Google Fi, Republic Wireless, and Ting.
The Alcatel Onyx for Cricket has a fingerprint reader, dual rear cameras, a tall 2:1 display, and sells for $120. It's based on the Alcatel 1x that was launched at CES a few weeks ago. The Onyx does have a fingerprint reader (not all versions of the 1x do). The Onyx also has 32 GB of internal storage instead of the standard 16 GB on the 1x. Otherwise, the Onyx is identical to the 1x. The phone has a 5.5-inch HD display, 3,000 mAh battery, memory card slot, 3.5mm audio jack, and FM radio. Its 13-megapixel main camera is aided by a 2-megapixel depth camera for portrait effects, the focus of which can be adjusted after the photo is taken. The front camera is 5 megapixel. The Onyx comes with Android 8.1 (Oreo). Alcatel and Cricket announced the Onyx today and it's available now, in "Suede Black".
A Brazilian Motorola web site accidentally posted photos and details of the unannounced Moto G7 series of phones. There will be four versions of the G7. All of them have a headphone jack, fingerprint reader, memory card slot, and Android 9 (Pie). The standard Moto G7 model will have a 6.24" full-HD+ display with a small "drop-style" notch, and dual rear cameras. Inside is a Snapdragon 632 processor paired with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage, and 3,000 mAh battery. The Moto G7 Plus model is very similar but has a Snapdragon 636 processor and higher-resolution cameras (16 megapixel main / 12 megapixel selfie). A slightly lower-end Moto G7 Power has a huge 5,000 mAh battery, but has a lower-res (720p) HD screen with a larger notch, less internal storage, a single rear camera, and 3 GB RAM. The cheaper-still Moto G7 Play is similar to the G7 Power but with a smaller 5.7-inch display, 2 GB RAM, and a 3,000 mAh battery. An event is scheduled for Feb. 7 in Brazil where the G7 series is expected to be formally announced.
"Unlimited" Verizon 4G service is now available to anyone for $40/month through Visible, an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator). The Verizon-backed company launched in May last year as an invite-only service for people bringing their own compatible iPhone. The company dropped the invitation requirement later in the year. As of today, the service is compatible with Android phones, and the company is selling new iPhone and Android phones. The initial Android selection is just the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+. The 4G service is limited to 5 Mbps data speed, but all usage is otherwise unlimited. The company does not charge activation fees, SIM card kit fees, upgrade fees, nor restocking fees. The company now offers phone financing with no interest and no down payment, as well as phone insurance plans. Visible has no physical locations, offering activation, support, and all customer interactions via its app, now available for both iOS and in beta for Android.
A new group video chat app called Squad lets users share what's on their screen, including other apps, in addition to traditional video chat. It's currently available for iOS; an Android version is in internal beta. The Android version also supports picture-in-picture, for sharing both a live selfie and screen sharing at the same time. Squad is designed to let users turn any app, including social media apps, into a shared social experience. In beta testing, users also found it useful for tech help, homework help, and coordinating dining and travel plans.
ROKiT is a new line of affordable unlocked phones accompanied by a unique range of health and life services for what it calls "transitionals", which means people between jobs, people struggling socioeconomically, and anyone without adequate health insurance. The lineup includes two very basic feature phones and three Android models. Two of the Android phones have glasses-free 3D screens and a ROK Flix app with exclusive 3D content. One of the first content offerings is an animated bible created by the company's own animation studio. The company offers a variety of subscription services tailored to its target market. ROK Health is included free for the first year on the three Android phones, and includes pharmacy discounts and family telemedicine. The subscriber and family members under 26 can call and consult with a real doctor at any time. After the first year, ROK Health is $10/month or $100/year. A step-up plan called ROK Life adds roadside assistance, accidental death insurance, burial and cremation insurance, ID theft protection, and family legal services. ROK Life runs $15/month or $150/year. The roadside assistance is also available separately for $30/year. The feature phones are priced $35-40. The Android models run $90-275. The phones work on AT&T and T-Mobile networks, and cellular service must be purchased separately. ROKit phones and services will be available in March. The parent company ROK Brands previously launched ROK Mobile as a music-focused MVNO in 2014, re-launched it in 2015, then closed shop last year.
TCL today announced the Alcatel 1x (2019), an update to last year's 1x with significant upgrades and new features, including dual rear cameras. Like the original 1x, it has a 2:1 display shape and fingerprint reader (some versions, depending on region). The display has been upgraded to HD resolution and enlarged from 5.3 to 5.5 inches. The (non-removable) battery is 22% larger, now 3,000 mAh. While last year's 1x ran Android Go, the new version has 2GB of RAM and a full version of Android 8.1 (Oreo). The distinctive design has a rough texture that wraps around the sides on the bottom half. The rear camera has been upgraded to 13 megapixel and is aided by a second camera for depth, offering a portrait mode with focus adjustable after the shot has been taken. The 1x is powered by a MediaTek 6739 processor. It will ship globally — including North America — in the coming weeks, for around $120.
Planet Computers is at CES this week showing off an early prototype of its Cosmo Communicator, which is an upgraded version of its Gemini. The Cosmo and Gemini share the same basic design that looks like a micro-size laptop. Both have the same "full size" QWERTY keyboard with real laptop-style keys, although the Cosmo's keys are backlit. The Cosmo's upgrades consist mostly of additions to the outer shell, including a small touchscreen, 24-megapixel camera, and fingerprint reader. The processor, memory, and storage have also been upgraded, to a MediaTek P70 processor, 6 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage. The Cosmo supports Android 9 as well as other Linux-based OSes. The company is still working on the outer touch-screen interface, with the goal of making it act more like a (large) phone when closed. The Cosmo is currently available on Indiegogo, where it's already over 450% funded.
Residents of Los Angeles can now download an app that can provide early warning of many major earthquakes. The app, offered by the city, is called ShakeAlertLA and is available now for both Android and iOS. The app was developed under contract with AT&T and is powered by the USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) earthquake early warning system. The USGS system currently includes 615 earthquake-sensing stations in California, with another 500 to be added by 2021. Similar services are already available in Mexico City and Japan, and have proven effective in giving citizens time to find safety in the event of a quake.
AT&T plans to change the indicator in the status bar of some Android phones from "LTE" to "5G E" in select markets. Specifically, this logo will appear in cities and towns that have been upgraded to AT&T's 5G Evolution technology, which is not 5G at all. Instead, the phones will be connecting to faster 4G LTE that relies on 4x4 MIMO, LAA, 256 QAM, and other LTE-based technologies. What AT&T calls 5G Evolution will be up and running in more than 400 markets by the end of the year. It is in these markets that Android device owners will see the logo change. The change arrives just as AT&T launches its mobile 5G network. The only device that can access the nascent 5G network is a mobile hotspot. AT&T isn't expected to offer a 5G phone until February or March. That 5G service will appear as "5G+" once it arrives. AT&T's planned "5G E" change is likely to mislead some consumers into believing they are connecting to 5G service when in fact they are not.
Instagram today announced several new ways people can interact with one another via the social network. First, it has added the ability to ask friends for music recommendations, or to make your own recommendations, using the questions sticker. A new music icon appears in the sticker that lets people browse or search through the music library and then share. Opening the viewer's list will reveal all the responses and recommendations. Instagram says people can take a picture or video as the music plays in the background. New effects in the camera respond to the beat of the music. These features are rolling out for Android and iOS in select regions. Second, Instagram says people can use the question sticker in Live to interact with people in real time. When users go Live, a "Q&A" indicator will show up in the stories tray. Join the Live video to see questions and answers as they happen. Those broadcasting Live can share photos and videos from their camera roll directly to the Live feed. Instagram says questions in Live will be rolling out on the latest version of Instagram for iOS and Android starting today. Last, Instagram has added a new interactive countdown sticker for stories. It lets people count down to upcoming moments, such as holidays, with their friends. People can follow the countdown and they will receive a notification when the countdown ends. Once users create a countdown, it will remain available for use in other stories. This feature will reach all users globally today.
Twitter today said iPhone owners can now choose to view tweets in the order they were published. This generally means in reverse chronological order, which is how Twitter originally operated until it later introduced the algorithmic feed. The company has been testing the tool since September and made it available through its mobile app for iPhones. It will reach the Android mobile app soon, says Twitter. People will see a sparkle icon in the app. Tapping it re-orders the timeline. The default experience is still based on Twitter's algorithmic feed, which showcases "top tweets" first. Twitter made the change based on customer feedback.
Fitbit today said it is distributing Fitbit OS 3.0 to its two most powerful devices, the Ionic and Versa smartwatches. The upgraded platform is more personal and customizable. It includes a revised Fitbit Today dashboard that features new tiles so owners can see their sleep quality, weight, water intake, and food at a glance. The Fitbit app gallery boasts several new apps. For example, a fresh health and fitness app helps people remain on target each day. Another new app, TRX, offers quick guided workouts, and FitBark lets people add their pet’s activity to their own. Last, revised goal-based exercise modes let people set targets and ensure real-time stats are properly recorded for more than 15 different activities. The Fitbit Ionic and Versa are compatible with Android and iOS devices. The watch update is available via the associated mobile phone app.
Google today updated its YouTube Music mobile app with YouTube Charts. The charts are available as playlists within the YouTube Music app and are accessible from all 29 markets where YouTube Music operates. Google says the charts contain the freshest, hottest songs and videos, which can be streamed or downloaded (for premium subscribers). Each country is given access to five charts: three from their own region and two world charts. Users can add the charted playlists to their own library if they wish. Some of the charts include the top 100 songs, top 100 videos, and top 20 trending songs, based on fast-rising new releases. YouTube Music is available to Android and iOS devices via the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.
Opera Software today launched a new version of its Opera browser for Android devices that takes a step toward the internet's future. The latest build of Opera, based on blockchain, now includes an integrated crypto wallet and Web 3 support. By adding blockchain to the browser, Opera works with Ethereum, a blockchain-based coin for Web 3 transactions. Android device owners can get started by downloading Opera, then purchasing some Ethereum cryptocurrency and storing it in Opera's crypto wallet. This will allow people to make Web 3 purchases directly from Opera. This is important because Web 3 is based on the idea of decentralization. Distributed apps (Dapps) are what's used in Web 3 and the only way to manage transactions in Dapps is via cryptocurrency. The benefit is that people have far greater control over their privacy and identity. Opera knows that consumer understanding of blockchain and cryptocurrency needs a boost. "Until now, using cryptocurrencies online and accessing Web 3 required special apps or extensions, making it difficult for people to even try it out," said Charles Hamel, Product Manager of Opera Crypto. By adding a crypto wallet and Web 3 to its browser, Opera's goal is to "accelerate the transition of cryptocurrencies from speculation and investment to being used for actual payments and transactions in our users' daily lives." Opera is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Blu today revealed the Vivo Go, a sub-$100 smartphone that runs the Go Edition of Android 9 Pie. Android Go focuses on delivering the core Android experience through lightweight versions of Google's apps. The phone has a curved glass front, mirrored frame, and metal-plated rear panel. The Vivo Go includes a 6-inch, HD+ (1,440 by 720p) screen with a 2:1 aspect ratio. It is powered by a 1.5 GHz quad-core MediaTek chipset with 1 GB of memory and 16 GB of storage. The phone supports microSD memory cards up to 64 GB. Blu paired an 8-megapixel main sensor with a VGA secondary sensor on the rear. The dual-camera setup supports adjustable depth-of-field portrait shooting. The selfie camera has a 5-megapixel sensor and a flash of its own. Other features include a rear-mounted fingerprint reader, 3.5mm headphone jack, microUSB, and basic support for AT&T/Cricket Wireless and T-Mobile/Metro. The Blu Vivo Go goes on sale via Amazon.com today for $80. It will be available briefly at a price of $60 upon launch.
Google today announced a new partnership with Lime that hopes to help people get across the "last mile" of their journey. In 13 cities around the world, Maps will display the location of nearby Lime scooters, bikes, and e-bikes. The option to use Lime will appear under the transit icon when navigating between points. Maps will detail the closest Lime vehicle, the vehicle type, how long it will take to walk to the vehicle, how much the ride will cost, and the total journey time. Lime users can integrate their Lime card with Google Maps. Tapping on Lime in Maps will then take people to the Lime app and provide all the necessary details to book a scooter, find it, and unlock it. In the U.S., Lime scooters will be visible in Austin, Baltimore, Dallas, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Antonio, San Diego, San Jose, Scottsdale, and Seattle. International cities include Auckland, New Zealand, and Brisbane, Australia. The feature is available in Maps for both Android and iOS.
OnePlus today made Android 9 Pie available to the OnePlus 5 and OnePlus 5T through a new open beta of OxygenOS. The introduction of Pie gives the 5/5T a brand new user interface based more on swiping gestures. The beta includes Pie's Do Not Disturb mode, which lets people be more proactive about silencing their phones. In addition to the core features of Pie, OnePlus improved the UI when calling 911 and when using speed dial, and made it possible to assign a specific SIM for a specific contact or group when using two SIM cards. The 5/5T gain support for more parallel apps, including Telegram, Discord, IMP, and Uber. OnePlus made a number of changes to the weather tool. For example, it now automatically displays the weather for the current location, offers more suggestions when performing place searches, and fixes bugs impacting the ability to properly locate certain cities and towns. Owners already taking advantage of the OnePlus open beta program will receive Android 9 Pie as an over-the-air download. Those not signed up will need to do so in order to gain access to the updated operating system. OnePlus says the OTA download will reach users in phases over the next few days.
Instagram today said users can put the direct messaging tool inside its mobile app to work with their voice. The private messaging function now supports voice messages. "Talk the way you want to be heard, whether by whispering what you’re up to or shouting a compliment," said Instagram. The feature is rolling out to Android and iOS devices over the next few days.
Google today updated its Google Fit app for Android devices and bestowed the health-minded tool with a few new features. To start, Google Fit gains a home screen widget where users can quickly view their daily progress at a glance. The widget provides information about Heart Points, Move Minutes, and other daily stats. It can feature the most recent workout on the home screen, and now allows users to adjust activity intensity when manually logging workouts for more accurate Heart Points. Last, Google Fit for Wear OS will guide users through a breathing exercise when so desired to help them unwind and relax. Google says these features will reach Android phones and Wear OS watches over the next few days.
Google today extended the availability of its For You feature in Google Maps to iOS devices. The feature was first rolled out to Android phones earlier this year. Moving forward, iPhone owners will be able to follow their favorite places, such as coffee shops or record stores. News from the followed place will then appear under the For You tab within maps. Places can advertise sales, offers, and events in this space where followers can check in for updates any time. Google Maps is also making it possible to keep tabs on places that haven't yet opened. Businesses prepping new locations can add profiles to Maps as much as three months before launch. People can follow the profile as soon as it becomes available, where they can be kept up-to-date on launch details. The For You tab will reach iOS devices in more than 40 countries over the next few days. At the same time, Google says it expanded the availability of For You in Maps for Android to a total of 130 countries. Google Maps is free to download.
Google today said that it will no longer update Google Play Services for Android 4.x Ice Cream Sandwich. Google says the active device count for Ice Cream Sandwich is below 1% of all users and has been for some time. The company will deprecate support for the seven-year-old platform in future updates to Google Play Services. Google Play Services is a core functionality of Android and is used to update Google apps and apps from Google Play. This means that any Ice Cream Sandwich-based devices still in use will no longer be able to update the installed apps. This move effectively ends Google's support for the platform. Google says developers should adjust their code accordingly and target API level 16 and up.
Blu Products today unveiled the Vivo XL4, an affordable device with a large screen. The XL4 has a curved glass front and a metal chassis. The notched display measures 6.2 inches across the diagonal and has slim side bezels. The display resolution is HD+ with 1,520 by 720 pixels in a 19:9 aspect ratio. The XL4 is powered by a 2.0 GHz octa-core MediaTek Helio P22 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The main camera has a 13-/2-megapixel configuration and supports portrait or bokeh-style images. The selfie camera also has a 13-megapixel sensor. It can take advantage of pixel binning in low light situations, as well as capture wide-angle shots. The selfie cam powers the Facemoji feature, which lets people create animated likenesses of themselves that can then be shared via social media. Other features of the Vivo XL4 include a 4,000mAh battery with quick charge, fingerprint sensor, microSD memory card slot, microUSB, dual SIM card, and split-screen operation when in landscape orientation. The phone runs Android 8.1 Oreo and is sold unlocked via Amazon. The retail price is $150, but it is being offered at $99 for a short time. The Vivo XL4 supports AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/Metro.
Google today clarified which messaging products it will focus on moving forward and Allo doesn’t make the cut. Google says the AI-assisted chat app will be sunset in March 2019. Google paused developing the app earlier this year. The company has moved some features over to the Android Messages app. Google says Android Messages is the main text-based app for reaching out to friends and family. Messages is being enhanced with rich communications services (RCS) thanks to some 40 carriers around the world. RCS means Messages can offer advanced features like group chats, read receipts, and large file transfers. At the same time, Google is sticking with Duo, its simple-to-use video chat app. Duo recently expanded to the iPad and other devices. Google says Duo is popular and highly rated and will continue to be its video chat app for consumers. Google Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet are focused on business users of G Suite, where they can be properly supported by companies.