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.
Google this week announced a new program to collaborate with other companies to screen apps for harmful code before they reach the Google Play Store, the app store for Android devices. The App Defense Alliance includes Google, ESET, Lookout, and Zimperium. "As part of this Alliance, we are integrating our Google Play Protect detection systems with each partner’s scanning engines. This will generate new app risk intelligence as apps are being queued to publish."
Google has added a rewards program called Google Play Points to the Android app store. The program is free to join and members earn points for everything they buy through Google Play, and even for downloading "featured" free apps and games. Points can be redeemed for Google Play purchases, in-app purchases and discounts, as well as donations to charity. The program has four tiers, with higher levels offering weekly prizes. The program is launching this week in the US, but has been available in Korea and Japan for a year.
Microsoft has released a public preview of its new, completely revamped Office app for Android and iOS. A single Office app replaces the previously separate Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps. It also includes the previously-announced features that let users take a photo of a document to create an editable Word document, and use the camera to import table data directly into Excel. It includes dedicated sections for non-Office documents: PDF, Media, and Notes. An Actions panel makes it easy to transfer files between phone and computer, or with nearby phones. It also includes shortcuts to create PDFs and add signatures to them. Anyone can try out the public preview, but it requires extra steps of enrolling in the testing program, a process that requires joining a group for Android, or using TestFlight for iOS.
Fitbit has agreed to be purchased by Google for $2.1 billion. Fitbit makes activity-tracking wearables, having sold more than 100 million devices, with 28 million current active users. Google has its own Wear OS smartwatch platform, which integrates with its Google Fit activity- and health-tracking service. Google said it sees "an opportunity to invest even more in Wear OS as well as introduce Made by Google wearable devices into the market." On privacy, Fitbit says "Fitbit will continue to put users in control of their data and will remain transparent about the data it collects and why. The company never sells personal information, and Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads." Fitbit also pledged to continue supporting both iOS and Android.
Razer this week launched two new phone accessories focused on the gamer market: Hammerhead True Wireless earbuds and the Junglecat, a dual-sided gaming controller. Both are designed to work with the company's own Razer Phone 2, as well as other phones. The Junglecat includes cases to fit the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, Samsung Galaxy S10+, as well as the Razer Phone 2. The Junglecat can be used attached to one of those three phones, or attached to a dedicated controller grip and used with any Android phone or Windows PC. It uses Bluetooth LE and charges via USB-C. The Hammerhead earbuds use a customized Bluetooth 5.0 connection for ultra-low latency of just 60ms. The earbuds offer 3 hours of battery life by themselves, and 15 hours with the included charging case, which charges via USB-C. The buds also sport touch controls, voice assistant compatibility, and IPx4 water-resistance rating. They're compatible with both Android and iOS devices, with an app available for both platforms. Both the Junglecat and Hammerhead True Wireless earbuds are available now for $100 each.
Netflix has been quietly testing a variable-speed playback option in its Android app for some users. The new "Speed" toggle offers options for 0.5x, 0.75x, 1.25x, and 1.5x. The feature is similar to one offered by most podcast and audiobook apps. Unlike a fast-forward or slow-motion feature, variable-speed playback includes audio, which requires extra processing to correct the pitch.
Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint have formed a new joint venture to accelerate the adoption of Rich Communications Services (RCS) and ensure it works seamlessly across US and global networks. The venture is called the Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI) and "is working to develop and deploy the standards-based, interoperable messaging service starting with Android and expected in 2020." RCS is an existing open industry standard for advanced messaging, designed to replace SMS and MMS. It supports high-quality media, read receipts, typing indicator, and more. Google has been pushing RCS heavily in the past two years, but US adoption has been slow due to delayed carrier deployments.
It may not seem like phones have changed much since the first iPhone came out. But there are a few key trends in recent years that change the relationship between our phones and our hands. Phone cases exist precisely at that crucial interface point, and I argue that they haven't kept up with two key trends: wider phones and gesture-based interfaces. These developments clash badly with current case designs. But there's a better way....
Google has unveiled the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, its new own-brand flagship Android phones. The phones have Motion Sense, which uses a tiny RADAR sensor to read mid-air hand gestures, and power advanced face recognition for phone security. Google claims its face unlock is the fastest on the market, and requires no screen touch at all. This technology was first developed as Google's Project Soli. The OLED display supports an auto-adjusting refresh rate, up to 90 Hz. The Pixel 4 also reacts to squeeze gestures. The Pixel 4 comes with Google Recorder, which includes real-time, on-device voice recognition and dictation that produces searchable transcripts. The camera includes both standard (12 megapixel, f/1.7, 77º) and telephoto (16 megapixel, 52º) lenses, as well as multi-frame hi-res digital zoom. The improved HDR+ now supports live preview and dual exposure controls for greater creative control. An AI-powered white balance feature recognizes scene elements to provide better color. The improved portrait function uses both cameras. The new night mode supports astrophotography with long exposures up to 4 minutes. The larger XL model has a 6.3-inch QHD+ display and 3,700 battery, while the smaller model has a 5.7-inch FHD+ display and 2,800 mAh battery. Both models have a Snapdragon 855 processor, 6 GB of RAM, 64 or 128 GB of storage, and 18W fast charging. The Pixel 4 will be available from all major US carriers on October 24th, with pre-orders available today. It will start at $799 ($899 for the XL) and come in Just Black, Clearly White, and Oh So Orange.
Google today announced that its Stadia game-streaming service will launch on November 19th. Separately, Microsoft has formally launched a public preview of its xCloud game streaming service, starting with Android.
Motorola is bringing its One Action phone to the US this month in an unlocked version for $350. This otherwise typical mid-range Android phone has a wide-angle (117º) camera on the back that's oriented to shoot landscape video when the phone is held vertically. The phone also has a standard 12 megapixel camera, a depth camera for portrait effects, and a 12 megapixel selfie camera. The 6.3-inch LCD screen has full HD resolution and a small hole-punch cutout for the selfie camera. The One Action has a Samsung Exynos processor, 4 GB of RAM, memory card slot, NFC, fingerprint reader, and 3.5mm audio jack. Pre-orders start today and the phone will be available from Motorola, Amazon, Best Buy, and B&H Photo by October 31st.
Hulu is rolling out the ability for users on its ad-free plan to download shows to watch offline. The feature is available now for iOS, and soon for Android.
Sony is updating its PS4 software this week for both console and mobile platforms. The new PS4 Remote Play app for Android will work on all phones with Android 5.0 and up; it was previously available only on Sony Android phones. Remote Play is already available for iOS. Sony is also updating its Second Screen app that turns your phone into a companion device while console gaming. Second Screen will now include a voice transcription accessibility feature for group chats, which converts party voice chat to text, and enables you to enter text that is read aloud to other party members. The new software is rolling out this week.
The Microsoft Surface Duo is a unique dual-screen device running Android that functions as a foldable tablet and mini version of the company's just-announced Surface Neo. Its dual 5.6-inch displays are joined by a 360-degree hinge that lets it fold with the displays facing either in or out. When folded, it's far wider than most phones, making it a slightly distinct category of device. It can run two apps side-by-side, use the second display as a keyboard, or function like one unified tablet. It won't be available until fall 2020.
Going forward, all new phones shipping with Android 9 or 10 will come with the YouTube Music app. On Android 10 devices, it will be the only music app from Google to be pre-installed, replacing Google Play Music.
Cricket now offers two different $80 phones running Android 9 Go Edition. The company launched the Alcatel Insight today, and the Cricket Icon on Monday. Both phones have a MediaTek MT6739 processor, FWVGA+ LCD display, 5 megapixel main camera, and 2 megapixel front camera. Go Edition is a special version of Android designed for entry-level phones with less than 2 GB of RAM and limited storage. Both the Icon and Insight have 16 GB of storage, but do have a memory card slot. The Alcatel Insight also has Google Lens, full-HD video recording, and a 2,200 mAh battery with Battery Saver Mode.
OnePlus today revealed the OnePlus 7T, a new model that's a blend of the 6T and 7 Pro, offering most of the best features of both, for less money than the 7 Pro. It has a small-notch screen design like the 6T, but in an extra-tall 20:9 ratio with full-HD resolution and HDR10+. The 20:9 ratio allows the 7T to be slightly narrower than the 7 Pro. It also has the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ processor, a slightly faster, gaming-optimized version of the top-end 855. Like the 7 Pro, it has three rear cameras (standard, wide, and telephoto) including a 48-megapixel main sensor, but the telephoto camera has been upgraded from 8 megapixels to 12. A new Macro Mode lets users to get up close to a focus distance of 2.5cm. Also like the 7 Pro, it has 90 Hz display refresh rate, "Warp Charge" fast charging, 128 GB of UFS 3.0 storage, Cat 18 LTE, and an in-display fingerprint reader. The 7T has 8 GB of RAM and a 3,800 mAh battery. It will ship with the just-released Android 10. Available color options are Glacier Blue and Frosted Silver. It will sell for $599 unlocked starting October 18th, and T-Mobile will be the exclusive US carrier for it.
Google today launched Play Pass, a new $5/month subscription service for Android users that provides full access to over 350 games and apps, ad-free and without in-app purchases. Google is offering a ten-day free trial as well as special intro pricing of just $2/month for the first 12 months. The collection of games and apps is curated by Google. Games and apps part of Play Pass at launch include Terraria, Monument Valley, Risk, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, AccuWeather, and many more. Google will add new titles every month. Developers are invited to express interest, but Google decides which developers to invite into the program. The service is similar to Apple Arcade, a $5/month subscription games service Apple just launched for devices using its platforms. Google is leveraging existing titles while Apple Arcade games are all exclusive to that service.
Cricket has launched the Icon — a Cricket-branded, entry-level phone — for $80. The phone is manufactured by Tinno for Emblem Solutions, which launched a little under a year ago with a financial investment and strategic agreement from AT&T to provide exclusive phones and tablets to AT&T. Cricket is a brand of AT&T. Cricket is offering a unique 2-year warranty on the phone. The Icon runs Android 9 Go Edition. It has a 5.5-inch display, 2,500 mAh battery, 5 megapixel rear camera, 2 megapixel front camera, MediaTek 6739 processor, 16 GB of storage, and a memory card slot.
A new kid-oriented phone service launches today nationwide. Gabb Wireless offers basic voice and messaging service for parents who want their kids to be connected, but "protect children from too much technology too soon". Although both phones offered by the company are Android smartphones, they have no data service, no app store, and no games. Gabb service runs $20/month for unlimited SMS and voice. MMS service runs an extra $3/month. Service is pay-as-you-go and contract-free. Gabb offers an entry-level ZTE phone called the Z1 for $100. The step-up offering is the Samsung S1 for $200, which is similar to the Samsung A10e. Compared to the Z1, the S1 offers a larger screen thanks to its modern, tall screen with a small notch. It also offers better cameras and Bluetooth.
Google released the final version of Android 10 today, after several months of public beta versions. It's available now for all of Google's own Pixel phones, and will be available for other phones in the coming weeks and months. The new OS offers a system-wide dark mode, new gesture navigation, and new privacy controls, among many features and improvements. For the new gesture navigation, a swipe in from the left or right edge of the screen performs the "back" action, while a swipe up from the bottom edge takes users to the home screen. Some apps will need to be updated to avoid triggering the back action accidentally. Users will also be notified when an app requests location data while running in the background, and users can decline those requests. Google recently changed the version naming scheme for Android, switching to simple numbers instead of letters and dessert names.
Google has dramatically expanded its bug bounty program to include non-Google Android apps in Google Play with 100 million or more installs, as well as data privacy issues in any app. Google will work with developers' own bug/vulnerability bounty programs, but will pay out bounties in addition to those of developers. Google will also use reports of security vulnerabilities through the new program to improve its automated scanners that look for security issues in all apps uploaded to the Play Store. Google is also starting a new program called Developer Data Protection Reward Program (DDPRP) that will offer similar rewards for people who find proof that an app in the Play Store is violating Google's policies on data privacy. Google will pay up to $50,000 to people who identify situations where user data is being used or sold unexpectedly, or repurposed in an illegitimate way without user consent.
ZTE today launched a US version of its Axon 10 Pro flagship phone for $549. It comes with more RAM (8-12 GB) and storage (256 GB) than the global version. It also has better support for US 4G LTE networks than most unlocked phones, supporting Cat. 12 LTE across bands 2, 4, 5, 12, 13, 25, 26, 30, 41, 66, and 71, (plus overseas bands). The 10 Pro sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, 4,000 mAh battery, and a 6.5-inch, full-HD AMOELD display with curved sides. Its triple rear cameras include a 48-megapixel main camera (f/1.7), 20-megapixel wide-angle (125º), and 3x telephoto (8 megapixel). The selfie camera clocks in at 20 megapixel. It also has Quick Charge 4.0 fast charging, wireless charging, NFC, memory card slot, water resistance, and an optical in-display fingerprint reader. The design features a deep blue color, matte-finish aluminum frame and 3D curved glass front and back. It comes with Android 9 and a clean Google interface design. It does not have a 3.5mm audio jack, but an adapter is included in the box, along with a fast charger and TPU case. The standard model with 8 GB RAM is available today, unlocked, for $549 from ZTE, B&H Photo, and Newegg. The 12 GB RAM version runs $599.
BLU today announced the G9 Pro, the company's latest higher-end phone in its lineup of affordable unlocked Android phones. Unusual features for its price class include wireless charging and triple rear cameras. The front sports an all-screen design with a 6.3-inch, full-HD display with a small notch. The glass rear has a shimmering blue/purple design. The main camera is 16 megapixel, assisted by a 5-megapixel depth camera for portrait mode. The third camera is a 20-megapixel module dedicated to night mode. The selfie camera clocks in as 24 megapixels. The G9 Pro is powered by a MediaTek Helio P60 processor paired with 4 GB of RAM. It comes with 128 GB of internal storage and supports an additional 128 GB via its memory card slot. It also has a large 4,000 mAh battery and supports 18W fast charging via USB-C. The phone also has a fingerprint reader on the back, 3.5mm audio jack, and FM radio. Included in the box are a clear case, fast charger, and 3.5mm earbuds. The phone is normally $250, but "lucky customers who are first in line will be able to purchase the G9 Pro ... for $199.99 while supplies last." The phone is available now from Amazon.
Verizon today launched the Nokia 3 V, which exactly like the Nokia 3.2 but with support for Verizon's 4G LTE network bands. This $168 Android phone sports a large 6.26-inch HD display with a small notch, and a large 4,000 mAh battery. Other specs include a Snapdragon 429 processor, 2 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, a memory card slot, and a 13-megapixel camera. It also has a 3.5mm headphone jack and comes with Android 9.
The tenth version of the Android operating system for phones will be known simply as "Android 10", dropping Google's long-running practice of publicly referring to OS versions by "internal code names" named after desserts. Android 9 was named "Pie", 8 was named "Oreo", and 7 was "Nougat". Google says the change will make the naming more accessible to a global audience, including places where "pie" is not a dessert, or marshmallows are uncommon, for example. Google also revealed a new logo for the OS.
Microsoft SMS Organizer is an alternative SMS app for Android that includes a configurable spam filter and several smart sorting and filtering features. The app was launched in India last year, but xda-developers discovered that it has now become available in the US, UK, and Australia as well. The app uses machine learning to automatically sort incoming SMS messages into categories such as promotional, transactional and personal. Promotional messages are considered spam; they won't trigger a notification and can be deleted automatically after a configurable amount of time. The apps also detects and helps organize info received by text about travel, tickets, and bills. The app can also backup and restore messages from Google Drive. The app is available now, for free, from the Google Play Store.
Nvidia's will make its GeForce Now cloud gaming service available on certain high-end Android phones "soon". Some games will require a gamepad accessory. The company did not announce timing nor pricing.
For two years, Google shared coverage and speed data, collected from Android phones, with network operators worldwide. Google shut down the program this April over concerns that it might attract scrutiny from privacy regulators, according to a report from Reuters. The data was only collected from Android users who opted in to sharing location history and usage and diagnostics with Google. Data shared with carriers was aggregated so as not to identify any individual users. The data was essentially a map of signal strength and data speeds. It included data relating to a carrier's own service and that of competitors, which were not identified by name. Google provided the service for free and many carriers found it useful for improving service.
Google is adding a new feature to some Android phones that can speak to an emergency operator on your behalf when you call 911. During an emergency call, three new buttons — "Medical", "Fire", and "Police" — will be available in case you're unable to speak. They will initiate a voice message to the emergency operator that explains the nature of the emergency and your current location. After you activate the service, you can always speak directly to the operator as well. The feature will become available in the US over the coming months, starting with Pixel phones.
Motorola today announced the Moto e6, a $150 Android phone with a 13-megapixel main camera and portrait mode, in a new design that drops the iconic Motorola look in favor of something more like an iPhone. Motorola calls the design "unibody", although the battery is removable. Compared to the e5, the display and battery are smaller, at 5.5 inches and 3,000 mAh, respectively. The display offers HD+ resolution. The processor has been updated to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 435, which Motorola claims is 50% faster than last year's 425 chip. The improved camera has f/2.0 aperture, PDAF, auto HDR, an LED flash, manual mode, and RAW output. It can also record full-HD video and support both time-lapse and hyper-lapse. The selfie camera is 5 megapixel with f/2.0 aperture. The phone also has a micro-USB port, 3.5mm headphone jack, memory card slot, and dual-band Wi-Fi. The Moto e6 is available today from Verizon, and will also be carried by T-Mobile, Metro, Boost, US Cellular, Consumer Cellular, and Xfinity Mobile.
Android Q will include a smarter, richer interface for Bluetooth devices that support Google's Fast Pair standard. Google has announced the final features and look of this interface as Android Q inches closer to final release by September. With True Wireless Stereo earbuds, Android Q phones will be able to show individual battery levels for the left earbud, right earbud, and case. Fast Pair devices will also now work with Google's Find My Device service. Owners can view the location and time of last use, as well as ring the buds to locate when they are in range. The new interface will also display links to Google Assistant and notification settings, if applicable, and key additional settings available in the companion app, if there is one, such as a custom sound equalizer. More than a dozen devices already support Fast pair, with more on the way.
The new Asus ROG Phone II builds on the basic design of the original but improves on it in almost every way, offering a larger screen, larger battery, improved software, and faster refresh and response times in every area. Designed for gaming, it includes an extra USB-C port as well as extra antennas and microphones to optimize performance in landscape orientation. The full-HD AMOLED screen has been stretched to 6.6 inches and sports 120 Hz refresh rate, 1ms response time, 240 Hz touch sampling, HDR, and Gorilla Glass 6. The battery is 6,000 mAh and supports fast charging via Quick Charge 4 as well as USB-PD. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset with 12 GB of LPDDR4x RAM and up to 512 GB of UFS 3.0 storage. It also supports 802.11ad gigabit Wi-Fi using 60 GHz for wireless display. The shoulder buttons have improved latency, haptics, and ergonomic options. The cameras have been upgraded to the same 48-megapixel + 13-megapixel wide cameras found in the new ZenFone 6. It also has an in-display fingerprint reader, front-firing stereo speakers, and NFC. Like the original ROG Phone, it has an elaborate cooling system to prevent processor throttling, and a new cooling accessory with a fan is 4x quieter than the original, and adds an extra 3.5mm jack for landscape use. Other optional accessories include gamepad controls that can be attached to the sides or used wirelessly, and a second-display accessory. The software includes multiple optimizations for gaming, including per-game options. Users can choose between an Asus interface theme or stock Google Android. The phone will launch in western markets starting September 4th. Pricing has yet to be announced.
Google Maps now includes real-time data on how many bikes (and empty spots) are at each bike-sharing dock station in 24 major cities. Available in both iOS and Android version of the Maps app, the information covers Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Budapest, Chicago, Dublin, Hamburg, Helsinki, Kaohsiung, London, Los Angeles, Lyon, Madrid, Mexico City, Montreal, New Taipei City, New York City, Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco Bay Area, São Paulo, Toronto, Vienna, Warsaw, and Zurich. To use the feature, search in a covered city for a phrase like "bike share", or the name of the local system, like "Bixi". Result cards include an indicator in the top-right showing the current number of bikes and the total number of spots.
Comcast's mobile service — Xfinity Mobile — will now let customers bring their own Android phone instead of requiring a new phone purchase. Recent high-end Samsungs are supported now, with additional Android device support coming later this year.
T-Mobile's 3rd generation of own-brand REVVL phones have larger, notched screens, fast charging, and modest spec upgrades all around. Dubbed the REVVLRY and REVVLRY+, these mid-range phones ship July 19th. The larger REVVLRY+ has a 6.24-inch, full-HD screen with a small notch. It has a 27W fast charging, Snapdragon 636 processor, 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB storage, and Cat. 12 LTE. It has a 16+5-megapixel dual rear cameras and a 12-megapixel selfie camera. It will sell for $350. The smaller REVVLRY has a 5.7-inch HD display with a large notch. It also has 10W fast charging, Snapdragon 632 processor, 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, Cat. 6 LTE, and a 13-megapixel camera. It will sell for $200. Both phones have a 3,000 mAh battery, fingerprint reader, basic water resistance, and Android 9 (Pie).
Qualcomm today announced a new Snapdragon chip to power the most affordable Android phones. The Snapdragon 215 replaces the 210, and offers greater performance in a number of key areas. As the most affordable Snapdragon chips, the 200 series sets the bar for the minimum amount of performance in $100 phones. The 215 has a number of firsts for the 200 series, including: support for NFC, Hexagon DSP for low-power processing of audio and sensor data, full-HD video capture, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, dual ISP for dual camera support, 64-bit CPU, and support for screens up to 1560 x 720 resolution. The CPU is up 50% faster compared to the 210, and the Adreno 308 GPU offers up to 28% faster graphics. The 215's X5 modem supports Cat 4 LTE. The chip also supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 1.0.
Mozilla has released a preview version of a completely revamped Firefox browser app for Android. Firefox Preview uses Mozilla's own GeckoView web rendering engine instead of Google's Blink. This enables Tracking Protection by default, which keeps advertisers and bad actors from tracking your activity across different web sites. Mozilla also promises speeds up to twice as fast. GeckoView and Tracking Protection debuted in the minimalist Focus browser app. Mozilla is now folding these features into its more full-featured Firefox browser. Firefox Preview also includes Collections, which lets users define a set of web sites to open at once, such as "morning routine" or "travel planning". Firefox Preview is available now, and with the final version available as the Firefox app this fall.
Cricket launched the LG Stylo 5 today, an update to LG's affordable, large-screen phone with a stylus. Compared to last year's Stylo 4, the new model has Android 9 (Pie) and a slightly larger battery at 3,500 mAh. The Stylo 4 was offered by many US carriers, and FCC filings reveal that the Stylo 5 may also be offered by Sprint, T-Mobile, Metro, and Verizon. The Stylo 5 looks much like the 4 and has many specs in common, including a 6.2-inch full-HD display, 13-megapixel main camera, USB-C connector, 32 GB storage, and a memory card slot. Cricket is selling the Stylo 5 for $230. The Blonde Rose color is a Cricket exclusive; the company is also offering the phone in Platinum Gray.
The Google app for iOS and Android now makes it easier to search for animated GIFs and share them directly to popular messaging apps. When searching for "excited gif", for example, a new "share GIFs" section in image results will show GIFs based on how likely they are to be shared, and include a "share" button that connects directly to apps including Whatsapp, Android Messages, Gmail, and Hangouts. The feature is also available in when searching Google in Chrome on Android.