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 today said its Project Fi wireless service will soon be more secure. The company is extending the way it uses a VPN to protect subscribers' connections. Moving forward, all connections, whether cellular or WiFi, will be encrypted via Google's VPN. Using a VPN prevents bad actors from intercepting the data being sent between your device and the connection point. Moreover, the VPN was designed so a user's traffic isn't tied to their Google account or phone number, providing another layer of security. Google Fi provides LTE via three different carriers (Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular) and automatically switches to WiFi when available. Google says Fi will be more proactive about returning to the cellular network when the WiFi connection gets sketchy. Google claims this reduces the amount of time people wait for their device to switch over by as much as 40%. Google will begin distributing these new features to devices running Android 9 Pie on Project Fi over the coming week.
AT&T today announced that it will be the first U.S. carrier to sell the Razer Phone 2. The device will reach select stores on November 16 and will be available online the same day. The phone costs $799 and AT&T is looking for $26.67 per month for 30 months on an AT&T Next plan. The Razer Phone 2 is a dedicated gaming device. It has a 5.7-inch quad HD IGZO screen with a 120 Hz refresh rate and is powered by the Snapdragon 845 processor with 8 GB of RAM. The main camera features a wide field of view with a 12-megapixel sensor, while the secondary camera has a telephoto lens with a 12-megapixel sensor. It has an 8-megapixel front camera. Owners can adjust the illuminated Chroma on the rear of the phone however they wish. The Razer Phone 2 has a 4,000mAh battery that supports rapid charging and wireless charging. The chassis is rated IP67 for protection against water and dust, and a fingerprint reader is located on the right edge. Razer nixed the headphone jack, but it included a DAC-assisted USB-C-to-3.5mm adapter in the box and the phone includes Dolby stereo speakers. It runs Android 8.1 and has its own launcher styled after Razer's design language. The phone includes the Cortex Mobile app, where owners can find the latest games. The unlocked version of the Razer Phone 2 (with AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon compatibility) is already available online.
Google's GBoard application for Android devices is prepared to add a bit of smarts to the conversation. The latest version of the app will use artificial intelligence to suggest GIFs, emojis, and stickers. As people type, Google will scan for words that are commonly paired with GIFs, emoji or stickers. When it reads them, the "G" logo on the keyboard will light up, letting the user know that GIFs are available. Tapping on the "G" then takes users to a screen where they can choose from pre-selected GIFs, or search for a different one. Google says all the AI processing is done locally on the phone to ensure a quick experience. The new AI-assisted GIF suggestions are available globally in English starting today. Google hopes to expand to more languages over time.
Cloudflare has extended its fast and private 220.127.116.11 DNS to mobile devices in a simple-to-use app. The 18.104.22.168 DNS is based on Cloudflare's global network, which the company claims is 28% faster than other public resolvers. This translates to faster web browsing. More importantly, the 22.214.171.124 DNS prevents internet service providers from snooping on DNS queries and the web sites people visit for private browsing. Cloudflare says it will never sell user data, or take advantage of user data to target ads. There are no in-app purchases and the 126.96.36.199 DNS is free to use for life. The app is available via the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Google today said it is rebranding its mobile app for managing on-device storage and sharing files with others. When Files Go first launched in December 2017, its goal was to help people whose devices had limited storage. It was also meant to let people share music, videos, and apps with others even when an internet connection wasn't available. Google says the app has grown to 30 million monthly users. The company is rebranding Files Go to Files by Android and redesigned the user interface at the same time. The app now focuses more on content stored on the mobile phone, yet it still includes lighthearted experiences such as celebratory notifications explaining how much storage people have recovered when they delete files from their device. Files by Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Sprint and Cat Phones today announced the S48c, a fully ruggedized, mil-spec 810G phone that withstands drops, shock, moisture, dust, altitude, and temperature extremes. It is rated IP68 for protection against water and dust. The phone includes a programmable PTT button and is compatible with Sprint's Direct Connect service. Cat says the phone is intrinsically safe, a first for the company, which means the S48c can be used in hazardous environments with flammable vapors. The S48c has a 5-inch full HD display with Gorilla Glass 5, wet finger tracking, and glove mode. It is powered by a 2.2 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 630 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. A slot for microSD cards supports up to 128 GB of expandable storage. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with LED flash, while the selfie camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. The phone can take pictures when under water. The battery measures in at 4,000mAh and provides up to two days of battery life. The phone ships with Android 8 Oreo and a commitment from Cat to update to Android 9 Pie. The S48c costs $480 and will go on sale online and in Sprint stores November 9. Monthly payments for the phone are $20.
Google today announced a number of features that developers can put to use in their Android apps. First up, the new In-App Updates API lets developers push updates to their app while the app is in use. One one scenario, the user waits a moment while the update is applied immediately. In another scenario, the update is downloaded in the background even while the app is in use. Google believes this will make the updating process feel more seamless to end users, as they won't be forced to close apps or update via the Play Store. Google Slices, a concept introduced earlier this year, are now in public testing. Slices allow a snippet of an app to run without the app actually being installed on the device. Several apps, including Kayak and Doist, will have Slices up and running by the end of the month. Google expects to expand Slices to more apps in the near future. Google also released a new version of the Kotlin coding language, launched Android Studio 3.3 in beta, added support for uncompressed native libraries in Android App Bundles, and made improvements to Instant Apps. Developers can access and put these new tools to use through the Android developer portal.
Google today announced support for folding devices, what it calls "foldables," at the Android Developer Summit. Google says this is a new form factor coming from Android device makers next year. With native support for foldables baked into Android, apps will be able to run seamlessly as the device folds and unfolds. This achieves this form factor's chief feature, which Google says is screen continuity. Google didn't spell out any specific devices. Samsung is widely expected to announce a folding phone in the near future.
Google today provided details concerning the November security update for Android. Google says the newest patch solves a number of vulnerabilities in the Android source code impacting the framework, media framework, and core system. Many of the problems spotted were rated "high" or "critical" in terms of severity. The majority of "critical" issues could lead to remote code execution, wherein a hacker might launch malicious apps. As far as Google knows, none of the security holes have been exploited. Google revealed these problems to its phone-making partners last month. The company is providing two updates, one dated November 1 and the other dated November 5. These updates should reach Google's branded Pixel and Nexus devices over the next week or so. The company plans to distribute the patched code to AOSP within 48 hours. It is up to individual device makers to update their own hardware with the patched platform.
Best Buy recently added the Motorola One to its web site. The phone, available for pre-order, costs $400 and will begin to ship November 9. Motorola had not previously announced plans to sell the phone in the U.S. The Motorola One runs the Android One platform, which means it will recent regular security updates from Motorola. It ships with Android 8.1 Oreo, but will receive Android 9 Pie soon. The phone doesn't have bloatware and ships only with essential apps from Google. The Motorola One has a 5.9-inch HD+ screen with a 19:9 aspect ratio. It packs dual 13-megapixel cameras on the back and an 8-megapixel camera on front. Photo modes include portrait, cinemagraph, time-lapse, 4K video capture and Google Lens. Google says the 3,000mAh battery supports TurboPower charging. The Motorola One is based on a Snapdragon 625 processor with eight cores at 2 GHz. The phone has 64 GB of internal storage and supports microSD memory cards up to 256 GB. The Motorola One is sold unlocked with support for AT&T and T-Mobile.
The OnePlus 6T is available for purchase from T-Mobile and OnePlus.com. The phone, announced only days ago, has a 6.41-inch screen with a small, teardrop-shaped cutout at the top. The 6T adopts an under-the-glass fingerprint reader. It is powered by a Snapdragon 845 processor at 2.8 GHz with 6 or 8 GB of RAM and either 128 or 256 GB of storage. The phone includes a 3,700mAh battery that supports OnePlus' Dash Charge rapid charging tech. A dual camera system lets the phone capture portrait / bokeh images. It has a 20-megapixel sensor at f/1.7 and a 16-megapixel secondary sensor with OIS and EIS. The 6T supports Cat 16 LTE and 42 different global LTE bands with 4x4 MIMO and five-channel carrier aggregation. The phone runs OnePlus' OxygenOS, which is based on Android 9 Pie. The OnePlus 6T starts at $549 in both Mirror Black and Midnight Black.
ZTE is taking its first, cautious steps in staging a comeback in the U.S. market with two entry-level phones that can run on Sprint, Verizon, and GSM networks. The Blade Max View and Blade Max 2s (pictured) both cost under $200 and offer big screens and big batteries. Shared features between the two include 6-inch displays with full HD+ resolution, dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2, USB-C, memory card support, 4000mAh batteries, basic GSM/LTE for AT&T/T-Mobile, fingerprint readers, and a clean version of Android 7 Nougat.
- Blade Max View: This is the slightly more capable of the two phones. It is powered by a Snapdragon 435 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The dual-camera configuration includes a 16-/2-megapixel combination. The main sensor has a five-element lens at f/2, while the secondary sensor has a three-element lens at f/2.4 The second sensor is meant chiefly for contrast and depth-of-field information for bokeh photos. The phone has an 8-megapixel front camera. The Blade Max View provides Cat 6 LTE on Verizon Wireless.
- Blade Max 2s: This is the spiritual successor to the Max XL. It is powered by a 1.4 GHz processor with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. It includes a 13-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel selfie camera. The Blade Max 2s works well on Sprint's LTE 4G network.
Google today added the ability to create personalized Mini emoji that resemble device owners. After people take a selfie, Gboard will use "a combination of machine learning and artistry" to generate illustrated stickers for individual users. The machine learning automatically suggests skin tone, hair styles, and accessories that can be fine-tuned after the fact. Google says Minis support different types of head coverings, facial hair, eyewear, freckles, wrinkles, and more. The tool creates three versions of each Mini, including "bold" and "sweet" for when users want a different take on their little character. Google says the new version of Gboard with Minis for Android and iOS is rolling out to all users starting today.
The Nokia 7.1, announced by HMD Global earlier this month, is now available for purchase from select online retailers. Pre-orders have been ongoing since early October, but the device is now shipping from Amazon, Best Buy, and B&H Photo Video. The Nokia 7.1 is a premium mid-range phone that adopts the all-screen design approach with notch. It has a 5.84-inch PureDisplay that includes full HD+ resolution in a 19:9 screen that supports HDR10. The 7.1 has a 6000 series aluminum frame. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 636 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. A 12-megapixel main camera at f/1.8 and a 5-megapixel depth-sensing camera at f/2.4 rely on Zeiss Optics. Together, they can capture portrait/bokeh images. The 8-megapixel selfie camera has its own AI-assisted features to help with facial recognition for masks, stickers, and more. The 7.1 can live stream video from the front and rear cameras at the same time to Facebook and Instagram. Other features include a rear-mounted fingerprint reader, Cat 6 LTE with dual SIM support, Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX, GPS, and WiFi. The phone includes an embedded 3,060mAh battery that supports rapid charging. The 7.1 charges via USB-C and offers a 3.5mm headphone jack. The device runs the Android One version of Android 8 Oreo, which means it is near stock and will receive three years worth of monthly security upgrades and two years worth of OS upgrades. The Nokia 7.1 costs $349.
Waze recently partnered with more music services so people can access and listen to their favorite content while navigating between points. Waze partnered with Spotify last year, but announced an expanded media player within the Waze mobile app that works with seven new content providers. The additional services include Pandora, Deezer, iHeartRadio, NPR One, Scribd, Stitcher, and TuneIn for a wide selection of music, news, and podcasts. Waze says support for these new services is rolling out over time. Beta testers can take them for a test drive right away, but Waze won't finish integrating all eight services into both the Android and iOS Waze apps until the end of the year. Waze says users will need to update their favorite content app and sync it with Waze just once in order to get them working together. The feature supports multiple music apps, allowing people to switch from music to podcasts whenever they wish. Google, which owns Waze, recently added a similar feature to Google Maps.
OnePlus today announced its flagship phone for the back half of the year, the OnePlus 6T. The phone is a significant upgrade to the OnePlus 6. To start, it improves the 6.41-inch screen by reducing the size of the notch. The display now has a teardrop-shaped cutout at the top, rather than a saddle-shaped notch. The Super AMOLED panel is protected by Gorilla Glass 6. OnePlus is one of the first few phone makers to adopt an under-the-glass fingerprint reader. The tech made its real-world debut at CES earlier this year, but has yet to reach many phones. The reader can detect fingerprints through the display, which allows OnePlus to create a more seamless device. OnePlus says the technology is fast enough and secure enough for everyday unlocking and mobile payments. It is powered by a Snapdragon 845 processor at 2.8 GHz, and an Adreno 680 PGU with 6 or 8 GB of RAM and either 128 or 256 GB of storage. The phone includes a 3,700mAh battery that supports OnePlus' Dash Charge rapid charging tech. A dual camera system on the rear ensures the phone can capture portrait / bokeh images. It has a 20-megapixel Sony IMX519 sensor at f/1.7 and a 16-megapixel SonyIMX376K sensor with OIS and EIS. The phone can capture slow-motion at up to 480fps. The 6T supports Cat 16 LTE and 42 different global LTE bands with 4x4 MIMO and five-channel carrier aggregation. The phone runs OnePlus' OxygenOS, which is based on Android 9 Pie. OnePlus created its own swiping gestures for controlling the UI that are simpler to master than those from Google. The OnePlus 6T goes on sale November 1 for $549 in both Mirror Black and Midnight Black.
Art enthusiasts have 200,000 new reasons to be excited about the Google Arts & Culture app, which recently expanded its partnership with New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met has been methodically digitizing its collection of more than 1.5 million artifacts that span some 5,000 years of history. The Met has agreed to incorporate its Open Access program into the Google Arts & Culture platform, bringing with it 200,000 digitized works of art. The art is being shared through a Creative Commons Zero license, which allows people to not only view the art via the Arts & Culture app, but also download, remix, and share those works. The collaboration means people can take advantage of search features from Arts & Culture, such as the ability to browse by time period or color, to explore the Met's collection. Further, the Met has launched The Met Collection API, a tool that will allow Google Arts & Culture to continually add the Met's collection to its own platform, including the most up-to-date versions of catalogued images and information. Art enthusiasts can begin to explore these 200,000 works of art from the Met's collection online, or via the Android or iOS Arts & Culture mobile app.
WhatsApp today announced that support for stickers and sticker packs is coming to its mobile apps for Android and iOS. The messaging service is initially offering stickers designed by its own staff and select artists, though it also hopes third party content creators will adopt WhatsApp stickers. WhatsApp has released a set of APIs and other interfaces that allow developers to create WhatsApp-compatible sticker apps and packs for Android and iOS. Sticker apps for WhatsApp will be published in the Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store. Once installed, WhatsApp users should be able to send stickers via the new sticker button that appears when composing messages. WhatsApp says stickers should reach most Android and iOS users over the next few weeks. WhatsApp is owned and operated by Facebook.
Google today said it will discontinue support for Nearby Notifications on Android devices. The notifications were launched in 2015 as a way for people to discover nearby apps, content, and services based on their location. Businesses could use Bluetooth-based Eddystone and/or Physical Web beacons to beam signals to phones as they passed by, generating an alert. The alerts were meant to help people find relevant information for things in the area, such as transit schedules, free WiFi details, or guidance in museums. Google says, however, that the system has deteriorated such that it is used to deliver spammy notifications that aren't locally relevant. This, in turn, led to a poor experience for people. "We have a very high bar for the quality of content that we deliver to users, especially content that is delivered through notifications," said Google in a blog post. "Ultimately, we have determined these notifications did not meet that bar." Google will discontinue Nearby Notifications on December 6, 2018. Developers will continue to have access to their beacon dashboard and can push location-based notifications through their own apps.
Verizon Wireless today shared launch details concerning the new Palm companion device. Verizon says the small smartphone will be available online and in stores starting November 2. Big Red is offering several ways to finance the phone. The Palm can be paid off over 24 months for payments of $14.58 per month. Alternately, customers can sign a two-year agreement and pay $299 for the Palm, or buy it outright and contract-free for $349. The Palm companion device requires a $10-per-month Verizon NumberShare plan that is anchored to a standard smartphone service plan. The idea behind this diminutive device is to allow people to access their vital apps when needed, but keep them from staring at their screen all day. The Palm features an aluminum chassis with Gorilla Glass panels and an IP68 rating for protection against dust and water. It syncs messages, calls, and other data between itself and the primary phone. The Palm has a 3.3-inch HD screen, Snapdragon 435 processor, 3 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage. It has a 12-megapixel rear camera with flash and an 8-megapixel selfie camera. The Palm includes LTE, WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth, with an embedded SIM card. It has an 800mAh battery and relies on face unlock for security. The phone runs Android 8.1 Oreo and is compatible with millions of Android apps. Palm has customize the software to minimize notifications and interruptions.
Google has found another way to link people with retailers, restaurants, and shops. Using Google Maps for Android, people can search for their favorite places, such as coffee shops or record stores, and tap the new "Follow" button. 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 even opened yet. 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. Google says these features are rolling out over the next few weeks.
AT&T has partnered with Lookout to create the AT&T Mobile Security app, which it is bringing to iOS devices for the first time beginning today. The app had previously only been available to Android phones. AT&T Mobile Security is available in free and paid versions. AT&T Mobile Security Basic only reminds people to update their devices to the latest operating system and to set a passcode to protect the phone. AT&T Mobile Security Plus adds several more features and requires a $3.99 per month subscription. For example, AT&T Mobile Security Plus includes a tool called Secure WiFi VPN, which automatically scans public WiFi networks before subscribers connect to determine whether or not the network is secure. If it isn't, the VPN kicks on automatically, encrypting the connection between device and the access point to protect user data. AT&T Mobile Security Plus also includes Breach Reports. Breach Reports will alert subscribers when companies, apps, or services they follow suffer a security breach that could leave their personal information exposed. The Breach Report offers subscribers advice on how best to protect themselves based on the type of breach. Customers who was more peace of mind can bundle AT&T Mobile Security with AT&T Call Protect, which offers spam warnings, manual call blocking, and automatic fraud blocking. AT&T Mobile Security Basic and AT&T Mobile Security Plus are available from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.
Motorola Solutions today announced the Talkabout T800 walkie talkies and accompanying mobile application. The concept is to let outdoor adventurers keep in touch — and, more importantly, share precise location data — when cellular networks are not available. In order to use the T800s effectively, owners need to install the Talkabout mobile app on their iPhone or Android device and then connect their phone to the T800 via Bluetooth. The Talkabout app then uses the T800 as a modem for sending messages and location info over the radio. Users can send current locations, designate meeting spots, and alert others when leaving specific areas. The message function handles single and group messaging, and messages can be sent silently for safety purposes. The location features do require some planning, as users will need to download the maps ahead of time through the Talkabout app. Maps can be saved in various formats and shared with others easily. Moreover, the app can be used to control hardware features of the T800, such as selecting channels, setting tones, adjusting weather alerts, and so on. Motorola Solutions claims the walkies have plenty of power. A push-to-talk power boost option can be turned on to extend the radios' range by increasing transmitter output while also conserving battery life. Motorola says this creates reliable two-way radio comms with a range of 35 miles and data/messaging range up to 20 miles, based on terrain and conditions. The radios themselves are rugged and rated IPX4 for protection against splashing and rain. The T800s include access to seven NOAA weather channels and four VHF channels in order to get constant, up-to-date weather reports. Motorola included an emergency alert feature that sounds a siren or spoken/incidental sounds to seek assistance or warn of danger. These are controlled by the Talkabout app. Last, the T800s include an LED flashlight for night-time use. The walkie talkies ship with rechargeable batteries, USB-based chargers, and an assortment of clips and stickers. The Talkabout T800 come in a pair for $110 and are available to ship today.
HTC made the Exodus 1, a secure phone based on blockchain, available for preorder from its web site. HTC announced the device earlier this year, but details about the hardware were few. HTC has now fully revealed the specs for the device, which include a 6-inch quad HD+ display with a 2:1 aspect ratio and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. A handful of standard HTC features on board, such as BoomSound Hi-Fi speakers, Edge Sense 2 for better one-handed operation, and USonic active noise cancellation headphones. The Exodus 1 has four cameras. On back you'll find a 12- and 16-megapixel arrangement with one standard and one telephoto lens. On the front, the Exodus 1 includes a twin 8-megapixel camera setup for portrait / bokeh photos. It captures 4K video with HTC's Sonic Zoom and Audio Boost sound. The Exodus 1 boasts a CAT 18 LTE radio with 5-channel carrier aggregation and 4x4 MIMO. Supported LTE bands include 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 12, 13, 17, 20, 28, 32, 38, 39, 40, 41, and 66. The phone has a 3,500mAh battery with rapid charging, is rated IP68 for resistance to dust and water, and runs Android 8 Oreo. Exodus works with multiple protocols with the intent of interoperability between blockchains. Each phone will serve as a node to help with decentralization. For example, HTC claims it can double or triple the number of nodes of Dfinity, Ethereum, and Bitcoin. The goal is to provide a way to facilitate cryptocurrency trading. The phone features a secure enclave, provides a trusted hardware stack with APIs that connect to wallets, and provides owners with their own identity and data stored on the phone, rather than in the cloud. HTC anticipates it will ship the phone in December to some 34 countries, including the U.S. and much of Europe. Preorders cost 0.15 BTC (Bitcoin) or 4.78 ETH (Ethereum), which are each about $960.
Qualcomm introduced an end-to-end Bluetooth Smart Headset reference design that hardware makers can use to develop headsets with Amazon's Alexa on board. The reference design shows developers how they can add push-button activation support for Alexa to hearables connected to Android phones. The reference hardware includes Qualcomm's QCC5100 series Bluetooth audio chips as well as all the key hardware and software to allow for quick and efficient designing and engineering. The reference design also demonstrates ultra-low power consumption, Qualcomm cVc noise reduction for improved audio, and aptX HD for the best possible music reproduction. The Qualcomm Smart Headset Development Kit should speed up time to market, as Qualcomm has done the bulk of the needed coding for Alexa integration. This will let headphone makers plug in that code so they can concentrate on other aspects of their hardware. The real goal for Qualcomm is to convince OEMs to use its QCC5100 Bluetooth chips in their designs. Similarly, Qualcomm said it is partnering with several original design manufacturers to launch reference designs for wearables. It is working with Compal Electronics and Longcheer on smartwatches, Huaqin and Thundersoft on 4G kid watches, Franklin Wireless on 4G smart trackers, and Smartcom on 4G connected end-to-end solutions. Once these reference designs are all worked out, hardware makers should more easily be able to add Wear OS to devices that rely on the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 for smartwatches, open Android on the Snapdragon Wear 2500 for kid watches, and other platforms on the Snapdragon Wear 1100 and 1200 for smart trackers. Some of these will support 2G/3G devices, while others will support LTE 4G. Qualcomm didn't put a timeframe on the completion of these reference designs.
Google has updated its GBoard keyboard application for Android devices and given people the freedom to move it around. Tapping on the ">" button in the conjures up a menu box with the option to unmoor the keyboard from the bottom of the screen. A small tab allows users to move the keyboard around as they wish. The keyboard can be resized, as well, allowing users to see more content on the screen as they type. All normal keyboard functions are available, such as glide typing and word prediction. The floating option is in the latest build of GBoard, which is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google is prepared to charge its hardware partners a steep price for access to Google Apps. The company is prepared to tack on a fee ranging between $2.50 and $40 for each device, reports Reuters, with the average hovering around $20. Device size, screen resolution, and the country in which the device is sold are determining factors. Google says it is doing this to make up for revenue it will lose from de-bundling Google Search and Chrome from the apps it pre-installs on phones. The European Commission fined Google $5 billion for what it sees as anticompetitive behavior with its search and browser apps on mobile devices. The new fees will go into effect October 29. The EU hasn't responded publicly to Google's change in tack, and phone makers have not said how they'll recoup the costs.
Google today updated its Play Store developer tools, giving app writers more latitude to build and test their apps. To start, the Android App Bundle should allow for downloads that are 8% smaller, and on-device packages that are 16% smaller. Google says it should be easier for developers to jump to Android Studio 3.2 (stable) for creating bundles, which now support larger app sizes. Developers can create apps up to 500 MB in size without needing expansion files. Google is taking another run at instant apps. The company increased the size limit of instant apps — which are apps that run even when not installed on a device — to 10 MB. This gives developers freedom to offer more of their app instantly. Further, Google has dropped the requirement that instant apps include a published app bundle. The new Android Studio 3.3 (beta) makes it possible for developers to create a range of app bundles and instant apps. Google says Google Play Instant is now available to premium titles, and as pre-registration campaigns so people can test-drive the games before release. Other changes include tools for retaining subscribers, more flexible subscription pricing, better metrics, and simpler app updates. Google says these tools will roll out piecemeal to developers over the next few months.
Google has made it easier for people to share their estimated time of arrival with others. Moving forward, people can tap the ^ button in Maps to begin sharing their trip progress, which can include their live location, route, and ETA. The update allows live ETA info to be pushed via Gmail, SMS, and third-party apps, such as Facebook Messenger, Line, and WhatsApp. Once the journey is complete, the user automatically stops sharing their location. Further, people can now share live driving, bicycling, and walking journeys. This new tool is in the latest version of Google Maps for Android and iOS.
Sony today made it clear which phones will receive Android 9 Pie and when they'll receive it. The update has already reached the Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact, and Pie ships on the new XZ3. Sony says Android 9 Pie will be available to the XZ Premium, XZ1, and XZ1 Compact starting October 26. The XZ2 Premium should get Pie November 7. These will be followed by the XA2, XA2 Ultra, and XA2 Plus on or about March 4. Android 9 Pie includes features such as Adaptive Battery, a new Ambient Display, and Digital Wellbeing for controlling phone use.
Spotify is giving its paying subscribers a better app. The company has released an updated version of its mobile application for Android and iOS with streamlined navigation meant to help people find music faster. The app provides more recommendations on the home screen, adds more results to search, and surfaces favorites in users' libraries. Spotify says the search page has been overhauled with better browsing, calling out top genres, artists, albums, and podcasts. Last, the app adopts a tool called Endless Artist Radio, allowing people to search for a musician or song and then listen to an endless playlist of music by that artist. Spotify says these endless playlists are updated regularly and are downloadable for offline listening. Spotify Premium requires a $10-per-month subscription.
Google is distributing Chrome 70 to Android devices via the Google Play Store. This new build of Google's browser introduces a number of changes and updates. To start, Chrome more thoroughly adopts Google's Material Design so it is cohesive across devices. Google redesigned the Chrome search widget to better match the onmibox. The app now includes a quick and easy way to find file downloads via the settings menu, and allows web sites to access the phone's fingerprint sensor for authentication purposes. Chrome for Android is free to download.
Google today said it is appealing the European Commission's recent decision against Android. The EU sees the mobile platform's dominance as anti-competitive and fined Google $5 billion. Google believes Android has spurred competition and created a rich and flourishing ecosystem. However, Google has also developed a plan to comply with the EU's decision. Moving forward, Android device makers that want to install the Google Play Store and Google apps on phones and tablets in the EU will also be able allowed to build non-compatible, or forked, variants. Device makers can license the Google mobile application suite separately from Google Search and Google Chrome, which will now have their own licensing agreement. Google says it will offer new agreements to its partners that choose to pre-install Search and Chrome. Competing search and browser apps may also be pre-installed. "Since the pre-installation of Google Search and Chrome together with our other apps helped us fund the development and free distribution of Android, we will introduce a new paid licensing agreement for smartphones and tablets" that are shipped to the EU, said the company. Google will use the licensing fees to make up for lost revenue due to the decrease in Search and Chrome pre-installs. The change goes into effect October 29.
Google today said people can now search for and locate electronic vehicle charging stations in Google Maps. In addition to displaying the closest stations, Maps will provide information about the business where the charger is located, the types of ports that are available, how many ports there are, and charging speeds. Google says it offers crowd-sourced information, too, such as photos, ratings, and reviews of the charging stations. Google will supply links to additional details about the charger. Globally, Google Maps will locate Tesla and Chargepoint chargers, and in the U.S. it will also locate SemaConnect, EVgo, and Blink chargers. Android and iOS users can download the new version of Maps with EV charging locations today. Google says the same information will be available on desktop PCs in the coming weeks.
Boost Mobile today announced the Coolpad Illumina, an affordable Android phone that runs the lightweight Android Go platform. Android Go is designed for low-spec'd devices and includes simplified versions of core apps such as Gmail, YouTube, and Maps. The Illumina has a 5-inch screen and it is powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. A 5-megapixel camera graces the rear and a 2-megapixel camera faces the user. Other features include a 2,150mAh battery, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Boost Mobile is selling the Coolpad Illumina for $40 after an instant $40 credit.
Huawei today announced it flagship series for the year, the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro. The phones share a number of features, but have their own identity thanks to differences in the screen and chassis. The most distinctive feature is the camera module on the rear, which is square-shaped and contains three cameras and the LED flash. Both the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro are powered by Huawei’s Kirin 980 processor, which it says delivers even more AI-based smarts than its last-generation chip. The Kirin 980 features dual neural processing units to improve image recognition, Master AI for processing 1,500 different scenes, and predictive focus for tracking subjects in real time. Other shared features include Cat 21 LTE with dual SIM cards, Bluetooth 5.0, WiFi, GPS, and support for 256 GB memory cards. Both include a 24-megapixel selfie camera at f/2.4, and come in five colors, including green, blue, twilight, pink gold, and black. The devices run Android 9 Pie with Huawei's EMUI 9.0 skin on top. EMUI 9.0 is pared back a bit when compared to EMIO 8.0, and features business software as well as the ability to project a desktop mode to wireless displays.
- Mate 20 Pro: The Mate 20 Pro is the higher-end version of the two phones. It boasts a notched 6.39-inch curved OLED display with quad HD+ resolution and support for HDR. The Mate 20 Pro includes a fingerprint reader buried under the display, as well as 3D facial recognition for security. The phone features three rear cameras contained in a square module on the rear. The main camera has a 40-megapixel sensor at f/1.8, and it is joined by an ultra wide-angle 20-megapixel sensor at f/2.2, and an 8-megapixel 3x telephoto sensor at f/2.0. The phone supports wireless charging and can even act as a charger for other devices. The battery is rated at 4,200mAh. It comes with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage.
- Mate 20: This device has a "teardrop" notched screen that measures 6.53 inches across the diagonal with full HD+ resolution. The Mate 20 also features a three-camera array on the back with a main sensor of 12 megapixels at f/1.8, a wide-angle sensor of 16-megapixel at f/2.2, and an 8-megapixel 2x telephoto sensor at f/2.4. The phone supports wireless charging and the battery is rated at 4000mAh. It comes with either 4 or 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage and a rear-mounted fingerprint reader for security.
Google says it plans to introduce support for external microphones for its line of Pixel phones. This will allow those shooting video to capture higher-quality audio to accompany their visuals. The feature will work with USB-C ports (Pixel 2, 3) and 3.5mm jacks (Pixel). The company confirmed the update in its forums, stating, "At the same time as Pixel 3 launch (October 18th), we will introduce support for Android-compatible plugged-in external microphones in the default camera app for all Pixels." Other Android camera apps have supported this feature for some time, but not the main Pixel camera app. Pixel owners can expect to see their app update with the new tool in the next few days.
Palm, a California company that purchased the rights to the Palm brand from TCL, today launched a new device it calls an ultra-mobile product that "syncs with your smartphone to keep you connected but not consumed." The idea is to allow people to access their vital apps when needed, but keep them from staring at their screen all day — particularly when they are out and about. The device is tiny and features an aluminum chassis with Gorilla Glass panels front and back. It's rated IP68 for protection against dust and water. Palm says the device is designed to be worn, not carried. Rather that serve as a primary phone, it is a companion device. Owners will need to have a regular Android or iOS smartphone on a Verizon service plan. The Palm is billed like a smartwatch. Service costs $10 per month and it relies on the same number as the main device. It's able to keep messages, calls, and other data in sync between itself and the primary phone. The Palm has a 3.3-inch HD screen and it is powered by a Snapdragon 435 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. It has a 12-megapixel rear camera with flash and an 8-megapixel selfie camera. The Palm includes LTE, WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth, with an embedded SIM card. The device has an 800mAh battery and relies on face unlock for security. The phone runs Android 8.1 Oreo and is compatible with millions of Android apps. The user interface skips the idea of a home screen and instead shows all the on-board apps. A small gesture pad is available at the bottom of the screen, accessed by swiping up, and it can be used to search for apps based on scrawling the first letter of the app. The gesture pad also contains shortcuts to the phone, messages, camera, and music apps. The crux of the Palm is Life Mode. With this mode activated, the Palm essentially goes to sleep when users turn off the screen, preventing calls and messages from interrupting the owner. Owners can customize Life Mode a bit. The phone returns to full functionality when owners choose to wake the screen back up. Google Assistant is built in and works with custom, voice-activated shortcuts that perform a variety of actions. The Palm costs $350 and will go on sale in November.
Facebook has made it possible for people to share 3D pictures via the social network. There are multiple steps needed to successfully create a 3D post. First, 3D photos require an image captured using the Portrait mode on the dual-camera iPhone 7+, 8+, X or Xs. This is vital, as the second camera captures depth-of-field information as well as perspective. Facebook has added a special tab to News Feed that allows people to post 3D images. Once the Portrait photo is uploaded, Facebook does the rest. Everyone will be able to interact with 3D photos via their browser, using the mouse to tilt and pan a bit for the 3D effect. Facebook says 3D photos can also be viewed through its Oculus virtual reality devices. The 3D photos should reach everyone in the coming weeks. Facebook didn't specify when dual-camera Android phones will gain the ability to post 3D photos.
Epic Games today made its popular Fortnite game available without an invitation. The app has been available in beta since August, though an invite was required for access. Epic Games has dropped the need for an invitation and most anyone can download the game. Fortnite is not available in the Google Play Store. Instead, people interested in the game will need to go to Epic's web site to download an installer. The installer then puts the game on the phone. The game started as an exclusive to the Samsung Galaxy Note9 and was later discovered to have a major security flaw in the installer (since patched). Fortnite is best played on high-end devices that have Android 8 Oreo installed. Some compatible phones include the Samsung Galaxy S7, S8, and S9 series; all Google Pixel phones; the LG G5, G6, G7, V20, and V30; the Asus ROG Phone and 5Z; the Essential Phone; the Huawei Mate 10, Mate 10 Pro, Honor 10, and Honor Play; the OnePlus 5, 5T, and 6; the HTC 10, U Ultra, U11+, U12+; the Sony Xperia XZ1, XZ2, and XZ3 series; as well as a handful of others from Xiaomi, ZTE, Nokia, and Lenovo.