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.
Sunbird has pulled its app from the Google Play Store, and Nothing has pulled its version of the app, following significant privacy issues. Sunbird offered a way for Android users to communicate with iPhone users via Apple's proprietary iMessage platform. However several researchers and journalists discovered that the app wasn't encrypted in ways Sunbird promised, and other people's private messages could be accessed with relative ease. Services like Sunbird will become less necessary in a year, when Apple adds support in iOS for the RCS rich messaging standard already used by most Android phones.
Apple has issued a statement announcing that it will support RCS — the industry standard for enhanced messaging — in late 2024, which likely means in iOS 18. This will enable features like read receipts, typing indicators, and high-quality media with users of other platforms, including Android. Android already supports RCS as its default enhanced messaging platform. Green bubbles on iPhones won't be going away, though. Apple confirmed that blue bubbles will continue to be exclusive to iMessage messages. Google and some governments have been pressuring Apple to provide this kind interoperability in recent months. The full statement from Apple, provided to 9to5Mac, reads: "Later next year, we will be adding support for RCS Universal Profile, the standard as currently published by the GSM Association. We believe RCS Universal Profile will offer a better interoperability experience when compared to SMS or MMS. This will work alongside iMessage, which will continue to be the best and most secure messaging experience for Apple users."
Starting Friday, owners of the Nothing Phone (2) will be able to download a new app that will let them access Apple's iMessage platform. The Nothing Chats app is based on the Sunbird service, an app that currently has a 150,000-person waitlist. Nothing's deal with Sunbird lets Nothing Phone (2) users cut the line. According to Sunbird CEO Danny Mizrahi, "for the next few months the only way to get Sunbird is to have a Nothing Phone (2)." The app is a beta version, and indeed the Washington Post found several limitations, such as no message editing, limited Tapbacks and group chat support, and occasionally unreliable message sending. Still, the effort marks the first time an Android phone maker has attempted to support Apple's proprietary messaging platform.
Google has released a new version of the Android Runtime (ART), a core component that turns app code into lower-level code that can run directly on that specific device. The update contains new optimizations that reduce the resulting code size by about 9.3%. This means most apps now take up less space in both storage and RAM. On the average Android phone, this means a savings of about 50–100 MB in storage. Thanks to Google's modular design of the Android architecture, the ART update does not require a full OS update.
Motorola has new phone hardware and software concepts to show off. Its new foldable phone concept is shaped like company's razr foldable, but folds the other way, with the main display on the outside. Rather than a fixed hinge, the whole center of the phone is flexible, allowing it to be worn around the wrist. The phone can also be bent in specific places to make it stand up at an angle on a tabletop. The software adjusts to offer a full-screen Android interface, part-screen full Android interface, or smartwatch mode. The company is also working on new AI software, including Privacy Content Obfuscation, which uses AI to automatically identify and blur profile pictures and names in outbound social media posts, protecting privacy. Motorola's other new AI features include Text Summarization, an AI-assisted document scanner, and a personal assistant that runs a large language models (LLMs) on-device and continuously learns, to provide better, more personalized answers with greater privacy. In a separate announcement, Qualcomm today announced the first mobile chip capable of running an AI voice assistant powered by a LLM on-device. Motorola's announcements were made at at Lenovo's Tech World '23 event in Austin, Texas.
Qualcomm has taken the wraps off its new flagship chip for phones: the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3. Unsurprisingly, AI is the emphasis among the new features and performance gains. One key new feature is the ability to run a generative AI large language model (LLM) (specifically, Meta's Llama 2) and integrate it with a voice assistant, all on-device. Google has only recently announced such a service — Google Assistant with Bard — albeit as an "early experiment" and presumably cloud-based. The ability to run such cutting-edge AI entirely on-device, enhancing privacy, is a first. The chip also supports multi-modal generative AI, supporting both input and output via voice, text, and photo. The 8 Gen 3 can generate images via stable diffusion in under one second, many times faster than before. Snapchat has already announced plans to use this feature. The Hexagon NPU AI cores are 98% faster than last year's. In the upgraded Sensing Hub, always-on AI performance has been improved up to 3.5x, and there are now dual ISPs, enabling always-on AI using both front and rear cameras. The upgraded AI capabilities enable features such as Photo Expansion ("zooming out" on an existing photo using generative AI) and Video Object Eraser. The Kryo CPU cores feature 30% better performance and 20% better power efficiency compared to last year's chip. Qualcomm has switched to a 1-5-2 arrangement of the CPU cores, with the prime core running at 3.3 GHz and five "performance" cores running at 3.2 GHz. On the GPU side, the company claims 25% better performance and 25% better power efficiency. The chip is also the first in mobile to support ray-tracing with Global Illumination in Unreal Engine 5.2. It also supports gaming at up to 240 Hz, and upscaling to 8K on external displays. The FastConnect 7800 subsystem supports Wi-Fi 7, Bluetooth 5.4 with LE Audio, and Qualcomm's new XPAN technology that lets earbuds connect over Wi-Fi, for better sound quality and/or extended range. Flagship Android devices powered by Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 are expected to be available in the coming weeks.
Qualcomm has a new technology that aims to make it easier to connect different devices. Snapdragon Seamless is designed to enable a variety of scenarios, including peripheral sharing (your PC keyboard working with your tablet and phone), dragging files and even windows between different types of devices, and earbuds that intelligently switch devices based on audio source priority. Seamless is a "connection-less" protocol that relies on Bluetooth LE and other existing wireless technologies. The technology is designed to be cross-platform, working across Android, Windows, and other platforms. Committed partners include Microsoft, Google, Dell, Lenovo, and Honor. New multi-device features enabled by Snapdragon Seamless are set to arrive on global device platforms starting as early as this year. Snapdragon Seamless is built in to the company's newest chips, including the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 for phones, S7 for earbuds, and Snapdragon X Elite for laptops.
OnePlus has launched the OnePlus Open, its first foldable phone. The flagship-class phone has top-end specs, going head-to-head with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 and Google Pixel Fold in both design and features. The phone has a 7.82-inch flexible display inside, protected by Ultra-Thin Glass, with a carbon fiber support structure underneath to reduce the crease at the hinge. The unique "Flexion" hinge is an 8-axis mechanism that uses just 69 parts, compared to the industry average of more than a hundred components. OnePlus claims this improves durability, and has had it tested and certified for a million fold actions. The outer display measures 6.31 inches and is protected by Ceramic Guard, which OnePlus claims is 20% more impact resistant than Corning Gorilla Glass Victus. Both displays are "ProXDR" LTPO AMOLED panels with 2K resolution and 120 Hz refresh. It does sport OnePlus' signature alert slider switch. The Hasselblad rear triple-camera system includes a 48 megapixel main camera with a Sony LYTIA-T808 sensor featuring stacked-pixel technology that boosts light intake. There's also a 64 megapixel telephoto camera with 3x periscope optical zoom and 6x lossless zoom via sensor crop. The wide-angle camera is 48 megapixel and has auto-focus. The Open is powered by a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip paired with 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of UFS 4.0 storage. The 4,805 mAh battery can be fully charged in just 42 minutes thanks 67-watt fast charging. It has excellent support for T-Mobile's network, good support for Verizon's sub-6 network, and basic support for AT&T. The OxygenOS 13.2 software (based on Android 13) includes Open Canvas, a new interface for large screens with multi-window / split-screen tools and a "desktop-like taskbar". OnePlus will offer the Open in the US in black or green for $1,700. Pre-orders start today with full availability October 26th. Pre-orders include a free pair of OnePlus Buds Pro 2 earbuds, worth $180.
Qualcomm is working on a new Snapdragon Wear platform based on the open-source RISC-V architecture instead of Arm. The new chips are intended for smartwatches running Google's Wear OS and Google is working to get Wear OS running on the new RISC-V-based chips. The two companies announced that they plan to commercialize Wear OS wearables based on RISC-V globally, including the US. The planned timeline for commercialization was not revealed. The partnership "will help pave the way for more products within the ecosystem to take advantage" of non-Arm CPUs. Google announced in January that it plans to get Android running on RISC-V chips as a "tier 1" supported platform. Qualcomm invested in a new RISC-V joint venture in August.
Cricket has launched two new white-label (Cricket-branded) phones, including one with a an unusually large 6,000 mAh battery. (The maximum in most current phones is around 5,000 mAh.) The aptly-named Cricket Outlast (pictured) sells for just $110 yet has a huge 6.8-inch HD+ display with 90 Hz refresh, NFC, and a 50 megapixel camera. It comes with an 18-watt fast charger. The other new model is the Cricket Debut S2, an entry-level Android phone that's just $80. Its specs include a 6.1-inch display, 3,000 mAh battery, MediaTek Helio A22 chip, and an 8 megapixel main camera. Both phones are manufactured by Tinno, which also makes the Cricket Magic 5G and Cricket Ovation 3. Many Cricket-branded phones also come to AT&T Prepaid with a different name; the Outlast may come to AT&T as the Jetmore, while the Debut S2 would be the AT&T Calypso 4.
The newest beta version of Android 14 includes a new and previously-unannounced feature: an option to turn your phone into a high-quality wired webcam. The feature is useful because most phone cameras currently offer much better quality than most standalone webcams. Because the feature implements the USB Video Class (UVC) standard, it should be compatible with most laptops and desktops. To use the feature, connect the USB cable; the usual options for File transfer, USB tethering, etc. will now include a new "Webcam" option. Users can choose to use the front or rear camera, and zoom in or out. The feature currently works on most newer Pixel phones. It seems that it will be up to manufacturers whether to enable the feature when bringing Android 14 to other phones. Apple introduced a similar feature called Continuity Camera in iOS 16, which can operate wired or wirelessly, but only works with Macs.
Cricket has started selling two additional phones under its own brand, adding to what was already the largest lineup of white-label phones among US carriers. The Cricket Magic 5G offers 5G for just $140, while the Cricket Icon 5 is a 4G Android phone for just $90. Both offer basic features such as Android 13, a 13 megapixel main camera, 5 megapixel front camera, 4,000 mAh battery, HD+ display with notch, and a fingerprint sensor. The Magic 5G also has NFC and a slightly larger display at 6.6 inches (vs. 6.5" on the Icon 5). The Magic 5G is manufactured by Tinno, which also makes the Cricket Ovation 3. It may also come to AT&T branded as the AT&T Propel 5G. The Icon 5 is made by Coosea, which also makes the Cricket Debut Smart, Innovate E 5G, and Vision Plus. The Icon 5 may also come to AT&T as the AT&T Motivate 4.
Fairphone has revealed the Fairphone 5, the next version of its sustainability-focused line of Android phones. The Fairphone 5 has better specs than past models, including dual 50 megapixel cameras (normal and wide) and a 90 Hz OLED display (6.46-inch, FHD+). The phone is modular and easily repairable. Full support lasts for five years and includes a warranty as well as full Android OS version upgrades. Security updates are promised for eight years. The company also uses materials that are better for the planet. Other specs include a 4,200 mAh battery, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB storage (expandable), Wi-Fi 6E, and NFC. Even though it's easily repairable, the phone carries an IP55 rating for dust and water resistance. It's available in black, blue, and transparent. The company is currently only taking pre-orders in Europe, but the the Fairphone 4 did eventually reach the US.
Google recently released a new version of Android Runtime (ART), a core software layer that all Android apps run on. The update "delivered real-world app start-up improvements of up to 30% on some devices." Starting with Android 12, Google was able to make ART a module separate from the rest of the Android OS. That means the new ART 13 update with faster startup times is available to all Android phones with Android 12 or later. Future ART updates — with performance and security updates, as well as new programming features for developers — will also be available to all Android 12+ phones. Google expects that ART 14 will further "improve performance while reducing code size".
Google has released the fifth and final beta version of Android 14. Although no specific date has been announced for the release of the final public version, the company says it is "only weeks away".
Google announced that it has finished rolling out end-to-end (E2E) encryption for group chats that take place over RCS using the Google Messages app, the default messaging app on most Android phones in the US. Google is also enabling RCS by default, unless a user has previously, explicitly turned it off. Google launched E2E encryption for one-on-one conversations in 2012, and started testing it for group chats at the end of last year.
Qualcomm is one of several major electronics companies teaming up on a new joint venture to advance the RISC-V architecture. RISC-V is an open-source alternative to the Arm architecture, which is the basis for the chips that power most mobile devices today. Arm is a British company that develops reference designs for the cores at the heart the chips that power most phones. Both Qualcomm and Apple currently license Arm designs for their own chips. Earlier this year, Google announced long-term plans to make Android compatible with RISC-V architectures. Qualcomm says "initial application focus will be automotive, but with an eventual expansion to include mobile and IoT." The new company will be based in Germany. Other partners in the joint venture include Bosch, Infineon, Nordic Semiconductors, and NXP.
A new industry standard for end-to-end (E2E) encrypted messaging with improved security was finalized this month. The new standard also provides excellent scalability for large group conversations, a challenge for some previous approaches. Google announced that it will adopt this new Message Layer Security (MLS) specification in its Google Messages app, the default messaging app on most Android phones. The company will also "support [MLS'] wide deployment across the industry by open sourcing our implementation in the Android codebase." The standard opens the door to making E2E encryption interoperable across different services and platforms, although it only addresses the encryption aspect, not the basic incompatibility of messaging platforms like RCS and iMessage. MLS was created by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). The specification has been in the works since 2018 and was finally released as RFC 9420 earlier this month.
Fairphone has announced that its repairable, sustainable, privacy-focused smartphone will now be available for the first time in the US. The Fairphone 4 is available from Murena, the company behind the /e/OS software that powers the device. /e/OS is basically "deGoogled" Android. The Fairphone 4 is modular, repairable, and built to last with a 5-year warranty. Parts like the display and battery are user-replaceable with no more than a screwdriver. (iFixit gives it a Repairability score of 10/10.) And yet it has a dust/water rating of IP54. The phone is Fairtrade Gold certified, with all materials responsibly sourced and conflict-free. The body has an aluminum frame and recycled plastic back. It's powered by a Snapdragon 750G chip and available with either 6 GB RAM / 128 GB storage or 8 / 256 GB. The storage is expandable with microSD, but it does not have a headphone jack. The 6.3-inch display has FHD+ resolution and is protected by Gorilla Glass 5. The main and wide-angle cameras are both 12 megapixel (48 megapixel with pixel binning) while the front camera is 25 megapixel. The 3,905 mAh battery supports 20W fast charging. The Fairphone 4 is only recommended for use with the T-Mobile network in the US. It supports important T-Mobile bands like 41 and 71, but does not support all T-Mobile network bands for maximum speed and coverage. Pricing starts at $630. It's available now in either green or grey from murena.com.
The motorola defy satellite link from Bullitt is now available in the US for $150. In North America, the price includes a free trial of the Premium messaging plan (300 non-emergency messages per month) until October 1st, and one year of the Essential plan (30 non-emergency messages per month) for free. The unique device adds satellite connectivity to any Android or iOS smartphone via Bluetooth. This allows that smartphone to send and receive text messages as well as provide location updates in places there is no cellular coverage. Messaging happens in the Bullitt Satellite Messenger app. Message recipients without that app receive a message as a simple SMS to their existing phone, and are invited to download the associated Android or iOS app to respond. Once the free trial(s) expire, there are various annual messaging plans available, starting at $5/month for 30 messages/month. All plans includes SOS Assist, with 24/7 access to emergency response centers. Retailers include AT&T, REI, Bass Pro.com, B&H Photo, Nomadic Supply, BlackOvis.com, and GoHunt.com.
Venmo is rolling out support for accepting payments with Tap to Pay for business users on both iOS and Android. The feature uses the NFC function built into many smartphones and requires no extra hardware. "Small business owners can onboard in just a few simple steps and start accepting contactless cards and digital wallets through their Venmo business profile. Tap to Pay on Android will be available for all Venmo business profile users in the coming months.... Tap to Pay on Android is also now available for all PayPal Zettle users in the U.S. ... In addition, Tap to Pay on iPhone is now available to select Venmo business profile and PayPal Zettle users, with plans to make it available to all Venmo business profile and PayPal Zettle users in the U.S. soon."
Motorola has launched two new foldable phones, creating a lineup of 2023 razr phones with flexible display technology. The higher-end razr+ has the largest outer display of a modern flip-style phone, and is the thinnest when closed. The design no longer features a "chin", bringing it closer to Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip series in appearance, and Motorola is matching Samsung on price at $1,000. The lower-end model will presumably be more affordable, breaking new ground in the US as a sub-$1,000 foldable at launch. Both new razr phones have the same 6.9-inch AMOLED inner display with FHD+ resolution, HDR10+, and at least 144 Hz refresh (165 Hz for the razr+).
- The 2023 razr+ is powered by a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip paired with 8 GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 256 GB of UFS 3.1 storage. The large AMOLED outer display surrounds the outer cameras. It measures 3.6 inches and sports 1066 x 1056 resolution, HDR10+, and up to 144 Hz refresh. Motorola has created a new software experience for the large outer display that includes functionality for apps like Google Maps, Google News, Google Wallet, weather, and Spotify. It also has new customization options and even mini-games. The battery is 3,800 mAh. The main camera is 12 megapixel with f/1.5, dual-pixel PDAF, and OIS. Standard colors are Glacier Blue and Infinite Black, both of which employ a 7000-series aluminum frame and Gorilla Glass Victus on both sides. A Viva Magenta (Pantone color of the year) edition swaps out glass for vegan leather on the bottom half. This color will be exclusive to T-Mobile in the US.
- The 2023 razr will be a more affordable option and perhaps the most affordable foldable phone on the market, although Motorola has not yet set a specific price. Its OLED outer display is a more modest 1.5 inches with just 194 x 368 resolution. Powering the phone is a Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 chip paired with 8 GB RAM and 128 GB storage. The main camera is 64 megapixel (f/1.7) with OIS and laser autofocus. Interestingly, the battery is larger at 4,200 mAh. The design consists of 7000-series aluminum, vegan leather, and Gorilla Glass Victus protecting the outer display. It will come in Sage Green, Summer Lilac, and Vanilla Cream.
HMD Global today announced two new very affordable Nokia 4G smartphones for the US. The Nokia C110 and C300 will sell for $99 and $139, respectively. Both have an HD+ display, 13 megapixel main camera, 3 GB RAM, 32 GB storage (expandable), IP52 water resistance, and Android 12. The Nokia C110 has a 6.3-inch display, 3,000 mAh battery, and is powered by a MediaTek Helio P22 chip. The Nokia C300 has a 6.52-inch display, 4,000 mAh battery, fingerprint reader, macro and depth cameras, and is powered by a Snapdragon 662 chip. Both phones go on sale this month. The C110 comes in grey and will be available from Walmart, Target, Consumer Cellular, and Tracfone. The C300 comes in blue and will be offered by Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Amazon, Consumer Cellular, and Tracfone.
The conversational AI app is available now, for free, in the US. ChatGPT Plus subscribers get additional features. It will come to Android and other countries soon.
Google is working with the major video conferencing providers to enable audio-only versions of their apps for Android Auto. The apps would simply let you join a previously scheduled meeting.
Google today announced several new features of Android's wallpaper options and the Google Messages app. The Messages app gains Magic Compose, a new feature that uses AI to enhance your messages by rewriting them for you in the style of your choice. In Android, the wallpaper tools will expand this fall to includes Generative AI Wallpaper. This feature will let users create a completely original wallpaper image based on a structured text prompt. Sooner — next month — Pixel owners will gain access to Emoji Wallpaper and and Cinematic Wallpaper. Emoji Wallpaper lets Android users create unique, personalized wallpaper based on a user-chosen combination of several emoji and one of several patterns or colors. The wallpaper are also slightly interactive, responding to touch. Cinematic Wallpaper takes an existing photo and uses AI to make it a 3D image with a subject that moves independently from the background as you move the phone.
Apple and Google have announced a new industry standard that will enable cross-platform alerts when people are potentially being tracked without their consent using any popular Bluetooth location-tracking device, regardless of manufacturer. For example, this would allow someone to receive an alert on their Android phone when an unknown Apple AirTag seems to be following them, or the same for an Apple iPhone and a Samsung SmartTag. Current anti-stalker features are either siloed in one company's ecosystem or require the manual download and use of a special app. This new standard will eventually come baked right into both iOS and Android. Besides Apple and Google, "Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, eufy Security, and Pebblebee have expressed support for the draft specification, which offers best practices and instructions for manufacturers, should they choose to build these capabilities into their products." Today marks the start of a three-month comment period on the draft standard. The companies plan to finalize the standard by the end of 2023 and implement it "in future versions" of iOS and Android.
Motorola has taken the wraps off the new edge+ (2023), its flagship phone for the US this year. This year's model brings back the curved-edge OLED display that was a hallmark of the edge series until last year's model switched to a flat display. The curved sides give the phone slimmer bezels and a narrower body that's easier to hold. Both the front and back are made of Gorilla Glass Victus that's curved on all four edges, helping the phone feel thinner. Also, this year's model is actually thinner at just 8.39 mm. The sandblasted aluminum frame rounds out the IP68 waterproof body, another improvement over last year's model. The fast charging is more than twice as fast at 68 watts, and the battery itself is larger at 5,100 mAh. There's also two-way wireless charging (15W/5W). While the display is still 6.7 inches, HDR10+, and FHD+ resolution, the refresh is faster at 165 Hz. The two 50 megapixel cameras (main and wide/macro) are joined by a new 12 megapixel 2x telephoto "portrait" camera. The front camera is 60 megapixels. Naturally, the processor gets an update to the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 from Qualcomm. There's also 8 GB of LPDDR5x RAM and 256–512 GB of UFS 4.0 storage (not expandable). Connectivity includes USB 3.2, Bluetooth 5.3 with LE Audio, NFC, and the phone is Wi-Fi 7 ready. The edge+ supports Motorola's ReadyFor connections to TVs and monitors (wired and wireless). The camera app sports a new 360º "Horizon Lock" feature that mimics a gimbal. Also new are Night Vision and portrait modes for video. The edge+ comes with Android 13, three OS upgrades, and four years of security updates. Boost Infinite and Boost Mobile will be first to offer the new edge+ (2023) starting in one week, May 9th. Spectrum and Consumer Cellular will also offer the phone. An unlocked model with 512 GB storage will be available for $800 starting May 25th (pre-orders May 19). Only one color — Interstellar Black — will be offered in the US.
BMW is rolling out its Digital Key Plus feature to compatible Android phones with UWB, such as the Samsung Galaxy S23+ and Pixel 7 Pro. The feature is already available for Apple products. The enhanced "Plus" version lets you keep your phone in your pocket, whereas the earlier Digital Key feature (already available for select Android phones) requires that you tap your phone on the door handle. Cars with the feature produced since November 2022 are compatible with Android, while a future remote software update will add compatibility to older cars. Older Samsung and Google phones are compatible as well, as long as they have the necessary UWB feature. This includes most Plus and Ultra Galaxy S phones, Samsung foldables, and the Pixel 6 Pro. Digital Key Plus is based on an industry standard from the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC).
Google is rolling out a new pop-up prompt in Android that will appear immediately after certain app crashes, prompting the user to update to a more stable version of that app. Google will use the analytics it collects through the Play Store to determine which versions of apps are more crash-prone and which are more stable. When a crash occurs and a more stable version is available, the prompt will appear.
Google has released the first public beta version of Android 14. Previous beta versions were intended only for developers. This version of Android 14 only includes a handful of minor changes visible to users, compared to Android 13. One is a smarter share-sheet, with new, faster options to share content with other people and devices. The "back" gesture has also been tweaked with a new visual interface. Most other changes are "behind the scenes" changes for developers. Google sometimes keeps new Android features hidden until it can announce them at an event like its annual I/O conference. Users wishing to try out Android 14 Beta 1 (on a non-critical device) can now enroll a recent Pixel phone in the beta program to access the software.
Google is updating its Maps app on iOS and Android to add better navigation within US national parks, particularly for hiking trails. Instead of just showing trailheads with pins, the entire path of a trail will now be shown. The app will also now "surface helpful details from the Maps community like what type of trail it is, its difficulty, and whether it's better for running, walking, or cycling." Google will also make it easier to download offline maps for specific parks, since cell service can be spotty within many. Other improvements include a visual overview of top attractions, and better directions to trails, including cycling directions. The updates are rolling out this month for the US, and Google will expand these features "around the world in the coming months."
Google has released a public beta version of Nearby Share for Windows computers. Installing the new Nearby Share app on a Windows device makes it easy to exchange files with nearby Android phones and tablets. Google promises to enable file sharing with other Google devices (such as Chromebooks) in the future. Nearby Share uses both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and therefore requires that both be enabled on both devices. When using Nearby Share with two devices signed into the same Google account, "file transfers are automatically accepted — even if your screen is off." When the other device belongs to someone else, they will be prompted to give permission. The app requires 64-bit Windows 10 or greater; Arm devices are not supported.
Bullitt has announced the first Android phones that will include two-way satellite messaging capability. The Motorola defy 2 and CAT S75 are both designed to connect to Bullitt's new Satellite Connect platform. The platform enables two-way messaging via satellite, for both emergency and non-emergency use. The two phone models appear to be essentially the same phone, sporting nearly identical specs and features. Those include sub-6 5G, a 5,000 mAh battery, 15W wireless charging, 6.58-inch FHD+ display with 120 Hz refresh protected by Gorilla Glass Victus, 50 megapixel main camera, 8 megapixel wide camera, and underwater photo capture. Both phones are powered by the MediaTek Dimensity 930 chipset, paired with 6 GB RAM and 128 GB of storage (expandable with memory cards). The phones are rated IP68 and IP69K for water and dirt. They're also military rated for vibration, humidity, salt mist, and thermal shock. The phones come with Android 12 and a promise of three years of quarterly software updates (including two full OS upgrades), and two additional years of "emergency" security updates. The CAT S75 is launching initially in Europe, while the Motorola defy 2 is coming to "selected operators" in North America before the middle of the year. The defy 2 is priced at $599, which includes one year of SOS Assist via satellite. For additional satellite service, "plans start from as little as $4.99/ month". Bullitt also announced the "motorola defy satellite link", a small Bluetooth device that can add the same satellite connectivity to any iOS or Android phone.
Bullitt and Motorola has unveiled the "motorola defy satellite link", a small Bluetooth device that acts as a gateway for two-way satellite messaging, adding that capability to any iOS or Android phone. Using Bullitt's Satellite Messenger service, a connected phone can both send and receive text messages where cellular service isn't available. While it includes an SOS mode, the service is also available for non-emergency use. The device has a rugged, waterproof design and multi-day battery life. It can function independently of a phone with two buttons: an SOS button and a "check in" button that sends your location to a predefined contact. The Motorola defy satellite link will be available globally in April for $99. Service is extra, starting at $4.99/month. Or, for $149, a bundle will be available that in includes the device and one year of service, including SOS Assist and up to 30 non-emergency messages per month.
TCL this week took the wraps off three new affordable Android phones coming to the US next quarter. All three share a similar "minimalist" design and will sell for under $200.
- The TCL 40 XE 5G is TCL's most affordable 5G phone to date at just $169. It's powered by a MediaTek Dimensity 700 chipset paired with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage. Its 6.56-inch HD+ display has 90 Hz refresh and TCL's NXTVISION display technology. The main camera is 13 megapixel.
- The TCL 40 X 5G is basically the same phone but with a better, 50 megapixel main camera. It will sell for $199.
- The TCL 40 XL is only 4G (using a MediaTek G37 chipset) but thanks to that trade-off, it offers a few upgrades for an even lower price. It has a larger screen at 6.75 inches, it has more built-in storage at 128 GB, it has a 50 megapixel camera like the 40 X, and it has stereo speakers. Yet it will sell for just $149.
Microsoft has added its (in)famous new AI-powered Bing chatbot to several of its mobile apps. The service, previously only available on the web and desktop apps, acts like an intelligent search engine that you can have a complete conversation with. The Bing service is based on ChatGPT from OpenAI. On mobile, Microsoft's Bing app, Edge browser app, and the Skype app now include access to the chatbot in both Android and iOS versions. In Skype, the chatbot can even be added to a group conversation.
At the MWC trade show in Barcelona next week, Qualcomm will demo stable diffusion AI image generation software running completely within an Android phone powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. The technology generates whole images with only simple text descriptions as input, similar to popular cloud-based services such as DALL-E 2 and Midjourney. By running the software completely on-device, Qualcomm is demonstrating that stable diffusion AI technology is possible on mobile devices without costly cloud infrastructure. Qualcomm's AI research team created the software using Qualcomm's existing AI development stack already available to partners. The demo uses a 1-billion-parameter AI model and goes through 20 steps to generate the final image. It takes 15 seconds to generate a 512x512-pixel image, comparable to services like Midjourney.