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 has added a new feature to the mobile version of its Chrome web browser that lets users subscribe to the RSS feeds of their favorite web sites. The browser's main menu now includes a "+ Follow" button when on a web page that provides an RSS feed. Entries from "followed" RSS feeds will appear in a new "Following" tab on the bottom half of Chrome's New Tab page. The feature is now available in the current version of Chrome for Android, although it may require enabling by going to "chrome://flags" in the browser and searching for "web feed". The feature is coming to the iOS version of Chrome "soon".
Motorola today announced the moto g pure, the company's latest entry-level phone. The phone will be sold by essentially every carrier in the US, including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Cricket, Metro, Boost, US Cellular, and Xfinity. Verizon will be the first to offer it, for $150 starting October 14th. Other carriers will offer the phone "in the coming months". Motorola will sell the phone unlocked for $160, with pre-orders starting October 14th. The phone will come in two variants: one for AT&T, Cricket, and Verizon — with support for AT&T's unique bands 14 and 30 — and the other for all other carriers, supporting T-Mobile's network and overseas 4G networks. Both variants will be powered by a MediaTek Helio G25 chip. The phone's features include a fingerprint reader on the back, basic water resistance, headset jack, and dual-band Wi-Fi. The HD+ display measures 6.5 inches. The 13 megapixel main camera is joined by a depth camera for portrait shots and a 5 megapixel front camera. Motorola claims two days of battery life from the 4,000 mAh battery. It has 3 GB RAM and 32 GB of storage, which is expandable with a memory card. It comes with Android 11 and Motorola promises one major OS upgrade plus two years of security updates (at least quarterly).
Google is adding to Android a number of features that started out exclusive to the company's Pixel phones. An update to the Gboard keyboard adds Smart Compose, which uses machine learning to suggest complete sentences. Gboard is also gaining Smart Clipboard, the ability to intelligently extract phone numbers, email addresses, and URLs from copy-and-pasted text. Finally, "when you open a messaging app right after taking a screenshot, Gboard will now show that screenshot as a suggestion to share." Google is also bringing Locked Folder to general Android. The feature lets you keep sensitive photos and videos in a separate "passcode-protected space" "so they won’t show up as you scroll through Google Photos or any other apps on your device."
Google today announced a new version of Android Auto with several new features, as well as a revamp of how Driving Mode works in Android. The new version of Android Auto adds the voice command "Hey Google, pay for gas", which will make it faster and easier to pay for gas "at over 32,500 gas stations across the U.S. starting with Exxon and Mobil, Conoco, Phillips 66 and 76 stations." The feature will also work in Google Assistant on Android, without Android Auto. Android Auto is also gaining better support for dual-SIM phones and phones with a Work Profile set up. The home screen for Android Auto will also now feature "music, news and podcast recommendations from Google Assistant." When using Android in your car without Android Auto, Google is pulling its Driving Mode feature out of Maps and into Google Assistant, to make it useful even when not using Maps' navigation features. Now users will "be able to say 'Hey Google, let’s drive' (or connect your phone to your car’s Bluetooth) to open the new driving mode dashboard". The dashboard (shown) supports Maps navigation, but also provides easy, safe access to calls, messaging, music, and podcasts whether using navigation or not, via voice commands or oversize buttons.
Older versions of Android will soon gain the Permissions Auto-Reset feature that Google introduced in Android 11. The feature will automatically revoke permissions from apps that haven't been used in "a few months". If the app is launched again, it will need to request permissions from the user again. The feature "helps protect user privacy", because "it can be tough to keep up with the permissions you’ve previously granted – especially if you haven’t used an app for an extended period of time." The feature will roll out to devices with Android 6.0 and newer over a four-month period starting in December.
T-Mobile has started selling the CAT S22 Flip, a unique phone that blurs the line between smartphone and flip phone. The S22 Flip has the size and design of a typical rugged flip phone, but its 2.8-inch main display is a touch screen that provides access to the full Android interface, including third-party Android apps. Several other basic phones on the market leverage the open-source version of Android (AOSP) but rework the interface to operate without a touch screen, which makes them incompatible with the third-party apps available in the Play Store. By including a touch screen, the S22 Flip is able to keep the Play Store and access to most Android apps. As a smartphone, the specs are basic, including Android 11 Go Edition, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 215 processor, and 2 GB of RAM. Other specs include a 2,000 mAh battery, VGA screen resolution (480 x 640 pixels), 5 megapixel main camera, 2 megapixel selfie camera, a memory card slot, and an outer display. Like all CAT phones, it has a rugged design, rated IP68, water-proof, washable, drop-proof, and Non-Incendive Class I Division 2 Group A-D T4. It has "extra loud speakers", large buttons, and a programmable PTT button on the side. It comes with a 2-year warranty. T-Mobile is selling the phone now for $234.
The Unicode Consortium has finalized and released version 14.0 of Unicode Standard for multi-lingual text, including 37 new emoji characters. New versions of Unicode are usually incorporated into updated versions of iOS and Android. The new emoji include: face holding back tears, face with diagonal mouth, melting face, face with peeking eye, face with hand over mouth, saluting face, dotted line face, palm up/down hands, finger pointing at the viewer, heart hands, hand with index finger and thumb crossed, biting lip, mirror ball, x-ray, crutch, troll, bubbles, pouring liquid, wheel, life preserver, low battery, beans, ID card, slide, and full/empty nests.
Facebook and Ray-Ban have collaborated to create Ray-Ban Stories, "smart" glasses similar to the Spectacles 3 from Snap. Ray-Ban Stories feature dual 5-megapixel cameras that capture photos with depth as well as videos up to 30 seconds. They also include open-ear Bluetooth audio for music and calls, with three microphones for beam-forming and background noise suppression. They do not include any display technology, and therefore do not compete with Google Glass, nor do they include AR features. A companion app called Facebook View (available for both iOS and Android) lets you view, edit, and share content captured by the glasses' cameras. A small light next to one of the cameras lets others know they're being recorded. The glasses are available in 20 variations, in classic Ray-Ban styles — Wayfarer, Wayfarer Large, Round and Meteor — and five colors, with a range of lenses including clear, sun, transition, and prescription. Ray-Ban Stories start at $299 and are available to order now, shipping this month.
The newest beta version of Google's Chrome web browser for Android includes two major new features. After executing a Google search and choosing a result, a new bar below the address bar lets you quickly navigate to a different search result. The other new feature automatically creates stylized images of text when you want to share a quote from a web page. To use it, you select a bit of text on a web page, choose "Share" and then "Create card". You can then choose from several visual styles. The resulting image includes the quote and web page address, and makes it easier to share quotes and web pages on social media, especially visual platforms such as Instagram. Both features are only available in the beta version of Chrome for new, and must be manually enabled by entering chrome://flags in the address bar.
Verizon is now offering the Orbic Myra 5G, the first Orbic phone in the US with 5G, and the first with mid-range specs. Orbic has been offering entry-level phones for Verizon since late 2018, including two Android smartphones and one feature phone. The Myra offers both sub-6 and faster mmWave 5G which Verizon brands "Ultra Wideband". It should also support mid-band 5G (band 77 / C-Band) when Verizon launches that network. The Myra uses Qualcomm's Snapdragon 750G chip, alongside 6 GB RAM and 64 GB storage (expandable). It has a large 6.78-inch HD+ display and large 5,000 mAh battery. Other features include Android 11, a 48 megapixel main camera, 8 megapixel wide camera, 16 megapixel front camera, Quick Charge 3.0 (18-watt charger included), and a headset jack. It's available from Verizon starting today for $349. Orbic is a brand of Reliance Communications.
The newest beta version of Android 12 brings a new accessibility option to Android: face gestures. The feature recognizes six different face gestures using the front camera, and lets users assign those to specific actions that work across many apps. The face gestures are: open mouth, smile, raise eyebrows, look left, look right, and look up. The actions include: scroll forward, scroll backward, next, previous, select, touch & hold, back, home, notifications, and quick settings. The feature is available Settings > Accessibility > Switch Access. Switch Access was originally designed to work with hardware buttons connected via USB or Bluetooth. Now a "Camera Switch" option has been added. Users of some phones may need to install Android Accessibility Suite from the Google Play Store.
Messages by Google will come pre-loaded and be the default messaging app on all Verizon Android devices starting next year. T-Mobile made a similar announcement in March, as did AT&T earlier this month. That means all three top-tier mobile networks in the US have now standardized on Messages by Google as the default app for RCS. RCS is the industry standard for enhanced messaging, designed to replace SMS. RCS offers features like read receipts, higher-quality photos and videos, and end-to-end encryption for one-on-one conversations. Verizon is also working to enable RCS interoperability across all carrier networks, but has not yet committed to a timeline for that. Verizon continues to offer and improve its own messaging app, Message+, even though it will no longer be the default messaging app starting next year. Customers using Message+ will get "full access to RCS capabilities by the end of the year". Verizon is also teaming with Google "to provide a robust business-to-consumer messaging ecosystem using RCS." Verizon's announcement today is a huge step for the RCS standard, which has suffered a long and tortured road to full implementation. Although there's now a clear path to a seamless and consistent enhanced messaging experience for Android users in the US, Apple has yet to support RCS in iOS. This means enhanced messaging is not yet interoperable between Android and iOS devices.
Google has released Android 12 Beta 3, which includes two major new features. The first is an enhanced auto-rotate feature that uses the front camera and face detection to orient the screen correctly while the user is lying down. This feature uses the new Private Compute Core feature of Android to ensure all processing takes place locally on the device in way that protects user privacy. The other new feature is Scrolling screenshots, which lets users capture long content that does not fit on one screen, saved in one image, in a simple and standard way. Users simply take a screenshot in the standard way, then tap the new "Capture more" button. Users are shown a thumbnail preview of the full-length screenshot, with the option to crop to just the section they want to save. Android 12 is still in development and may be unstable. Consumers are advised to not install beta software on their primary phone. Beta 4, due in August, will bring "platform stability" for developers, meaning APIs will not change. Subsequent releases will focus solely on fixing bugs.
OnePlus has announced a new Android update policy for its phones. The company's flagship phones will receive three major Android upgrades and four years of security updates. This includes the OnePlus 8, 8 Pro, 8T, 9, 9 Pro, and similar phones going forward. All phones in the company's more-affordable Nord series will receive three years of security updates. Nord N series devices (N10, N100, N200, etc.) will receive one major Android upgrade, while certain other Nord phones will receive two major Android upgrades. OnePlus is making this new, expanded update commitment thanks to its decision to merge most operations with Oppo and its greater resources. OnePlus and Oppo have always shared a parent company and certain resources, but will be working more closely going forward. OnePlus promises that this "is a change that you will likely not even notice since it’s happening behind the scenes." Global OnePlus phones will continue to use OxygenOS, although it will share a codebase with Oppo's ColorOS. This efficiency enables the new update commitment.
Qualcomm has partnered with Asus for a new flagship-class phone called the "Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders". Asus will make, sell, and support the phone, which is intended for members of Snapdragon Insiders, Qualcomm's new fan club. Available in the US next month for $1,499, the phone features maxed-out specs in most regards and comes with a small bundle of high-end accessories. The phone has unprecedented support for essentially all 5G and 4G networks worldwide in one SKU. That includes all major US networks and all four mmWave 5G bands. It showcases Qualcomm technologies such as the Snapdragon 888 chip, Snapdragon Sound, Quick Charge 5, and 3D Sonic Sensor gen. 2 (for the rear fingerprint reader, which works even with wet fingers). Other specs include 16 GB of LPDDR5 RAM, 512 GB of UFS 3.1 storage, 6.78-inch Samsung OLED display with 144 Hz refresh and HDR10+, Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi 6E, 4,000 mAh battery, and four microphones. Its triple rear cameras include a 64 megapixel main camera with a Sony sensor and OIS, 12 megapixel wide/macro camera with Sony sensor, and an 8 megapixel 3x tele camera with OIS. It also shoots 8K video and has a 24-megapixel front camera. The camera app uses AI for auto zoom, Super Night mode, and lens distortion correction on the wide-angle camera. Other phone features include NFC, 65W fast charging, stereo speakers, Gorilla Glass Victus on the display, and a light-up Snapdragon logo on the back. It does not have wireless charging, a headset jack, nor an IP rating for water. Premium true wireless Bluetooth earbuds with ANC from Master & Dynamic are included. Also included are a 65-watt Quick Charge 5 charger (that can charge the phone to 70% in 30 minutes), custom bumper case, and two premium braided USB cables. The phone comes with Android 11 and Qualcomm promises four years of security updates. Qualcomm promises "zero bloatware" on the device. Qualcomm is currently "working with all US providers" to ensure phone compatibility, although the company stopped short of promising Verizon certification just yet. It comes in Midnight Blue with red accents and will be available in August, unlocked, from Asus' web site.
Google has updated the Passes feature in Android to specifically support COVID vaccination and test cards. This brings vaccine passport functionality directly into Android 5 and later. Although the functionality is part of the Google Pay for Passes API, these "COVID Cards" can be used even without the Google Pay app installed. Google Pay for Passes is the same API used for loyalty cards, coupons, gift cards, boarding passes, transit tickets, and event tickets in Google Pay. Starting today, authorized COVID vaccine and/or test providers in the US can access the new APIs and begin issuing COVID Cards that prove vaccination status or test results. A COVID Card can be accessed as a shortcut on the home screen. COVID Card data is stored directly on the phone and not accessible to Google. An extra security step is required to access a COVID Card, similar to using Google Pay.
AT&T and Google have forged an agreement to make Google's Messages app the default messaging app for all AT&T customers using Android phones. T-Mobile made a similar commitment in March, leaving Verizon as the only top-tier US carrier to not standardize on Google's Messages app for next-generation rich messaging using the RCS industry standard. AT&T's move will help ensure AT&T and T-Mobile customers can enjoy interoperable rich messaging among Android phones between the two carriers. RCS is a replacement for SMS that offers better group messaging, typing indicators, and encryption, among other features. RCS offers features comparable to Apple Messages. However, Apple has yet to support the RCS industry standard, so iOS does not yet offer interoperable rich messaging with Android phones.
T-Mobile's new REVVL V+ 5G will offer 5G for just $200 on both T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile this July. The T-Mobile-branded REVVL V+ 5G follows the REVVL 5G, which broke new ground by offering 5G for just $400 when it launched a little less than a year ago. The new model uses a MediaTek Dimensity 700 chipset paired with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage (expandable). It also has a 5,000 mAh battery with 18W fast charging and a large 6.82-inch display. It has NFC, a side-mounted fingerprint reader, and comes with Android 11. The rear cameras include a 16 megapixel main camera and 5 megapixel wide-angle camera. The phone is manufactured by Wingtech, a leading ODM company based in Hong Kong that has also manufactured phones for Samsung. The REVVL V+ 5G will be available first from Metro on July 12th, followed by T-Mobile on July 23rd.
Samsung today announced a number of specific features of its new smartwatch OS developed in collaboration with Google. That collaboration was first revealed at Google's I/O developer event last month. The new platform is based heavily on Google's WearOS, but will incorporate many technologies from Samsung's existing Tizen smartwatch software in order to deliver better performance, better battery life, and sensor readings that are both more accurate and more consistent. A new Samsung Galaxy smartwatch using the new software will be announced at an event "this summer". The watch will feature Samsung's One UI design to match the company's phone software. When users install an app on their phone that also has a watch version, the app will automatically be installed on their Galaxy watch as well. Certain data will automatically sync between phone and watch, such as world clocks and caller blocking. The watch will also support continuous heart rate tracking. Samsung has its own watch face design tool that it will release to Android developers later this year. Devloper APIs will continue to be Android-based, as with WearOS, and third-party apps will continue to be available via Google's Play Store. Samsung will continue to support its older, Tizen-based watches for three years from product launch date.
In a major win for Bullitt Group, T-Mobile will offer the CAT S62 rugged Android phone this summer. T-Mobile hasn't had any truly rugged smartphones in its lineup since it discontinued the Samsung Galaxy S8 Active in mid-2019. The only other CAT-branded phone to be picked by a major US carrier was the S48c, launched by Sprint late 2018 and offered Verizon business customers in early 2019. The CAT S62's rugged credentials include exceeding US military standards for high and low temperature, thermal shocks, salt mist, vibration and tumble. It's designed to survive 6-foot drops onto steel at any angle. It also meets requirements for potentially hazardous environments, certified to Non-Incendive, Class I, Division 2, Group A-D, T4. Its display is protected by Gorilla Glass 6 and responds to both wet and gloved fingers. It's rated IP68 to be fully submersible and washable. The 4,000 mAh battery can be charged via USB-C and Quick Charge 4, Qi wireless charging, or POGO pins on the back. Key features include a 48 megapixel camera, NFC, rear fingerprint reader, and a customizable shortcut button on the side. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor accompanied by 4 GB RAM and 128 GB storage, which can be expanded with a memory card. The 5.7-inch display sports full-HD resolution. It will ship with Android 10 and upgraded to Android 11 in the fall. It comes with Android Enterprise support and Bullitt promises security updates for 2 years. The CAT S62 retails for $498 and will be exclusively available at T-Mobile "this summer".
As part of a broad set of updates rolling out to most Android users this summer, Google is enabling two major new features in its Messages app. The first is end-to-end encryption for one-on-one conversations between Messages users. This means that when two users are both using the updated Messages app on Android with chat features enabled, their conversations will be encrypted so that no one — not even Google or their cellular provider — can see the content of your messages. The feature does not currently work with group conversations, nor when either party is using a messaging app other than Google Messages. Users can confirm that their conversation is fully encrypted when they see a small padlock icon added to the send button. The other new feature coming to Messages is the ability to "star" important individual messages within conversations. Starred messages are then collected in a new Starred category so they're easy to find later.
Beats has finally launched its first fully in-ear true wireless earbuds: the Beats Studio Buds. These $150 Bluetooth earbuds feature active noise cancelling (ANC) as well as transparency mode to let you hear limited background noise. And even though Apple owns Beats, the Studio Buds are designed to be fully "native" compatible with both Android and Apple devices, including one-touch pairing on Android and a companion Android app. They're are also compatible with the Find My services of both iOS and Android. The buds are rated IPX4 for sweat- and water-resistance. Class 1 Bluetooth offers extended range. Beam-forming mics ensure clear voice calls free of wind and background noise. Each bud houses a proprietary 8.2mm, dual-element diaphragm driver, that's optimized for better ANC performance. The buds also support Spatial Audio / Dolby Atmos when used with Apple Music. Each bud connects directly to the source device, meaning either bud can be used by itself. The buds themselves provide up to 8 hours of listening time, or 5 hours with ANC enabled. The included USB-C charging case boosts total playback time to 24 hours. Beats Studio Buds are available to order today, and come in black, white, and red.
Google has released the second beta version of Android 12, which introduces several key features not found in the first beta. A new "Internet" quick setting consolidates Wi-Fi and cellular connections into one simpler control for Internet connections. Also new are universal, system-wide indicators and toggle controls for the microphone and cameras. It's now obvious at a glance any time any app is accessing the mic or camera, and such access can be switched off for all apps with one tap. There's also a new pop-up notification when an app accesses the clipboard and it contains data from another app. Finally, the new Privacy Dashboard offers a timeline view of all recent app accesses to microphone, camera, and location. The beta is intended only for developers and not for anyone's primary device. Phone Scoop has observed a relatively high level of instability with this particular version installed on a Pixel 5.
Motorola today announced the moto g stylus 5G, a version of this year's moto g stylus with 5G and a larger battery, for $400. The new 5G model has excellent support for all 5G and 4G networks in the US, (except mmWave 5G.) The battery has been bumped up from 4,000 mAh to a whopping 5,000 mAh. The 5G model has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 chipset instead the Snapdragon 678 in the 4G model. Although the 480 is a 4-series chip, it's newer than the 678 and offers similar performance. The 48 megapixel main camera offers access to the full 48 megapixel resolution, and the fingerprint reader is located on the back instead of the side. Other specs and features are similar to the 4G model, including a huge 6.8-inch full-HD display, wide camera, macro camera, 16 megapixel selfie camera, fast charging, memory card slot, and headset jack. The software is Android 11 with a nearly stock Google interface. Added stylus-oriented software includes the Moto Note app, Coloring Book app, and a customizable shortcut bar that appears when the stylus is removed. The stylus itself has been redesigned to be easier to remove and replace, and has a new feature that can help you find the stylus if you lose it. New features in the camera app include Spot Color for video and Dual Capture, which combines video from the front and rear cameras. The moto g stylus 5G will come in Cosmic Emerald. AT&T, Cricket, T-Mobile, Metro, Boost, Xfinity, and Spectrum will offer a version with 4 GB RAM and 128 GB storage (launch timing and pricing TBA), while the unlocked version sold by Motorola (plus B&H, Best Buy, and Amazon) will up that to 6 GB RAM / 256 GB storage. The unlocked version goes on sale for $400 on June 14th.
Apple today announced iOS 15, the next version of its core software that powers iPhones. Version 15 is not a major overhaul, but does add a long list of new features. An early beta version is available to developers starting today, with a more-polished public beta coming "next month". The final version will launch in the fall, likely alongside new iPhone models. New features include:
- Revamped FaceTime with SharePlay: FaceTime will now support scheduled calls and web links for Android and Windows users to join calls. New features make it easier to share your screen or streaming media with everyone on a group call.
- Live Text: System-wide recognition of text and objects within images.
- Updated Wallet: Will support digital home keys, driver's licenses, corporate badges, hotel keys, and more.
- Updated Maps: Adds AR mode for walking directions, 3D highway interchanges while driving, and greatly enhanced 3D views in select major cities.
- Focus modes: The new Focus feature will let you create Work, Personal, Sleep, Do Not Disturb, and custom Focus modes. Each mode can have its own notification settings and filters, and even its own home screen with specific apps and widgets. iOS can intelligently suggest personalized settings for each Focus mode, but they can also be customized. The current Focus mode is automatically synced across Apple devices.
- Notifications Summary: Can collapse all "non-time-critical" notifications into a morning summary and an afternoon summary, for example. Messages with contacts are still surfaced as received. iOS prioritizes information in notification summaries using on-device intelligence. Outside of Summaries, notifications will also have a more visual design with large icons.
- On-Device Siri: Siri will now process voice recognition directly on-device by default, instead of sending your voice to the cloud. This change enhances privacy, make Siri much faster, and allows Siri to process certain simple commands without an Internet connection.
Arm today announced details of its v9 processor core designs, which scale from smartwatches to laptops and compose what Arm calls its "Total Compute Solution". The suite of designs includes several new Cortex CPU cores, several new Mali GPU (graphics) cores, and a new interconnect design to link the cores that's 15% more efficient than before. The new core designs are faster and more power-efficient across the board, while introducing new security features. The new flagship CPU core is the Cortex X2, which is 16% faster than the X1 it replaces. The new standard "big" core is the A710, which is 10% faster and 30% more efficient than the A78 it replaces. The new A510 low-power "little" core is 35% faster and 20% more efficient than the A55 it replaces. The A510 also suitable as a main core for wearables like smartwatches. On the graphics side, the flagship Mali G710 GPU core is 20% faster than the G78 it replaces. At the other end of the lineup is the Mali G310, which Arm claims is the most performant entry-level GPU, rendering the Android interface twice as fast as previous-generation GPUs. Arm licensees like MediaTek, Qualcomm, Samsung, and Apple are expected to announce chips using the updated Arm architecture by the end of this year, with the first phones using this technology reaching the market in 2022.
Qualcomm recently announced updatable NNAPI drivers in Android for new and existing Snapdragon chips. This means the software drivers that connect apps to the AI processing hardware of Snapdragon chips can now be updated easily and regularly via Google Play Services. This is similar to how Qualcomm recently made its graphics drivers updateable, but for AI. This will enable Snapdragon-powered Android phones to enjoy potential AI performance and feature gains over time, without waiting for a major OS update from the manufacturer. Apps that will benefit include Google Assistant and Google Maps.
Google today took the wraps off the new consumer-facing features of Android 12. The most obvious is "Material You", a new iteration of Google's Material Design. Material You offers an array of customization features, including color palette, line widths, and more. It can take colors from a photo. Material You will launch first on Google Pixel phones and throughout all Google apps, but your custom choices will eventually extend to all Google products you use. The notification shade and Quick Settings are also getting a major overhaul. This includes "more intuitive" notifications, and new Quick Settings widgets for Google Play, Google Home, and system-wide disabling of app access to the camera and/or microphone. Improved indicators clearly show when an app is accessing your camera and/or mic. A new Car Key feature will use NFC and UWB to enable your phone to automatically unlock your car as you approach it. The feature will also allow you to share a temporary digital key with a friend. Car Key will be available first on Pixel and Samsung phones this fall. Android 12 also has a more "playful" lock screen with "dynamic lighting" animations. Google has also changed the shortcut for accessing Assistant (again) to be a long press of the lock button. Google also promises performance improvements under the hood that should make the whole OS faster. A beta version will be available starting today for phones from 12 different manufacturers.
Google today revealed several new security and privacy features across its platforms, including Android. A new Locked Folder protects selected photos and videos with an additional layer of security. This feature is coming soon to Pixel phones, to be followed by other Android phones. In Search, a new option immediately deletes the last 15 minutes of search activity. Finally, Google's Password Manager is gaining a new option to import passwords from other password managers. Password Manager will continue to sync automatically between Android and Chrome on the desktop, but this integration will be "deepened". These features were announced during the keynote at this year's Google I/O developer event today.
Google this week announced new requirements for Android apps listed in the Google Play store to clearly disclose what user data the app collects, how it's used, how it's shared, how it's protected (such as encryption), and what choices users have in regard to that data. Also required is whether the app meets Google's requirements for family-friendly apps. The user choice section includes whether users have a choice in sharing data in the first place, and whether users can have their data deleted when the app is uninstalled. There will be an additional line for whether compliance with all of the above has been verified by an independent third party. App developers will be responsible for the accuracy of this information. If Google finds that a developer has misrepresented the data safety info they've provided, the app will be subject to "policy enforcement", after first being given an opportunity to become compliant. Developers can start submitting this info to Google toward the end of this year. It will be rolled out to users at the beginning of 2022, and become required for all apps in the second quarter of 2022. Apple launched a similar App Privacy section for its App Store listings last year.
ZTE today launched the Blade 11 Prime, the company's latest affordable Android phone for Visible. It includes wireless charging, a highly unusual feature for a phone that sells for just $192. The phone has a 4,000 mAh battery and also supports reverse (wired) charging. It has a 6.5-inch HD display, MediaTek Helio P22 processor, 4 GB RAM, and 64 GB storage. The main camera clocks in at 16 megapixel, plus an 8-megapixel wide-angle camera, depth camera, and 8-megapixel front camera. Other features include Android version 11 at launch, a textured back that resists fingerprints, side-mounted fingerprint reader, memory card slot, headset jack, and USB-C. The Blade 11 Prime is available starting today from both Visible and Yahoo Mobile.
Bullitt Group, the maker of Cat-branded phones, today announced the Cat S42 H+, a new version of its S42 rugged Android phone with antimicrobial protection built into its body. All exterior components have been blended with an antimicrobial silver ion additive called Biomaster during the manufacturing process, to help fight bacteria. Biomaster is proven to inhibit bacteria cells from replicating by over 80% within 15 minutes and 99.9% within 24 hours. Bullitt claims this enhancement makes the S42 H+ "the first fully and permanently anti-bacterial phone." The S42 H+ is also waterproof, washable, and tested to withstand soap, bleach wipes, alcohol, and hand sanitizer. The S42 H+ otherwise has the same specs and features as the original S42. The Cat S42 H+ will be available in the US next month for $299. Biomaster is a made by Addmaster, a subsidiary of Polygiene.
TCL today announced several new TCL-branded phones in its 20 series, including two models that will come to the US: the TCL 20 Pro 5G and the TCL 20S. The US launches will include major carrier partners. TCL has joined the Android Enterprise Recommended program, and all of its new 20-series phones are so verified. The TCL 20 Pro 5G is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G chip and comes with 6 GB RAM and 256 GB storage. The 4,500 mAh battery can be topped up with 18W wired charging or 15W wireless charging, a first in a TCL phone. The phone is similar to the well-received TCL 10 Pro, but with an upgraded Sony IMX582 main camera. That 48 megapixel camera has optical image stabilization (OIS), another first for TCL. The curved 6.67-inch AMOLED display has full-HD+ resolution and HDR10. The rear has a matching curved glass cover with no camera bump. The camera system also includes a 16 megapixel wide camera, 5 megapixel macro camera, and 32 megapixel front camera. The phone is capable of recording 4K video with both front and rear cameras, as well as video HDR. The phone has excellent support for all 4G and sub-6 5G networks in the US. Other features include Android 11, 3.5mm headset jack, memory card slot, NFC, Super Bluetooth, and in-display fingerprint reader. The TCL 20S is the US version of the new TCL 20L+. The 20S has a 5,000 mAh battery, 6.67-inch full-HD+ display, and a 64 megapixel main camera. Other cameras include an 8 megapixel wide camera, 2 megapixel macro camera, and 16 megapixel front camera. The display features circular polarization, making it compatible with polarized sunglasses. While the 20L+ will have a Snapdragon 662 processor, the 20S will have a different (but similar) processor, to be announced, one of the few differences between the two models. The 20S also has 6 GB RAM + 256 GB storage, Super Bluetooth, NFC, headset jack, and memory card slot. The fingerprint reader is located on the side, and the phone also has a dedicated Google Assistant button. Both phones will arrive in the US in "early summer", but pricing and other launch specifics are to be announced.
LG today announced that it will continue to issue Android operating system updates for three years for its premium phones, and two years for its lower-end phones. The pledge follows the news earlier this week that LG will stop making phones by mid-year. For premium phones, LG's commitment is "up to three iterations of Android operating system updates from the year of purchase". This applies to G series and V series phones released in 2019 and later, as well as the Velvet and Wing. Lower-end models include the K series and Stylo phones released in 2020 "will receive two OS updates".
Google has finally given the green light for navigation, parking, and charging apps for Android Auto. The new categories were announced last August and have only been available via beta programs before today.
The Supreme Court today ruled against Oracle in its bid to force Google to pay for implementing Java in the Android smartphone operating system (OS). Oracle owns the intellectual property and copyrights for Java, but Java is widely used throughout the open-source software community. In creating Android, Google created APIs that allowed developers to write Android apps using Java. Oracle claimed in court that these APIs amounted to copyright infringement, while Google argued that the APIs were covered by the legal doctrine of "fair use". Oracle was seeking over $9 billion in damages. While an appeals court found in favor of Oracle, today's Supreme Court ruling settles the matter in favor of Google. The decision was 6-2. The decision is also a relief for the open-source community and many smaller software companies.
Bullitt Group today announced the CAT S62 Pro, the latest in its line of ruggedized phones for field professionals. The company is releasing the US version today, which has excellent support for T-Mobile and Verizon 4G networks, and will also work on AT&T. The S62 Pro is the third CAT-branded phone to feature a FLIR thermal imager, and sports the most advanced thermal sensor in a phone to date with full-HD+ resolution, a high-end spec for this type of sensor. It's also the first CAT+FLIR phone with a sleeker design instead of the odd hump hat extended from the top of the S60 and S61. The camera software includes FLIR's newest algorithms for combining thermal and visible imaging in real time, with several options and adjustable intensity. The software also includes new "analytic and reporting features typically found in higher end, dedicated thermal imaging products", including the ability to generate PDF reports of thermal conditions. The phone is also rated IP68 & IP69 for water and dust, as well as MIL-SPEC for thermal shock, high & low temps, vibration, humidity, and salt mist. It's fully washable with soap. The screen is protected with Gorilla Glass 6 and works with gloves and wet fingers. The phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor with 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage (which is expandable). Other specs include a 5.7-inch FHD+ LCD display, 12 megapixel main camera, 4,000 mAh battery, and Quick Charge 4. Other features include 4K video capture, Android 10, NFC, fingerprint reader, and LED notification light. Bullitt promises an update to Android 11 and three years of security updates. The CAT S62 Pro is available today starting today for $699 unlocked.
T-Mobile is deepening its ties with Google in several new areas, including committing 100% to Google's solution for rich messaging based on the RCS standard. Going forward, all Android phones sold by T-Mobile will have Google's Messages app set as the default (RCS-based) messaging experience. T-Mobile will also be carrying and promoting more Pixel devices going forward, and pushing Google One "as the preferred phone backup and cloud storage solution". T-Mobile is also abandoning its own new live-TV service in favor of YouTube TV "as T-Mobile's premium TV solution".
Google recently announced the formation of the Android Ready SE Alliance, a collaboration between Google and the makers of "secure element" chips for phones and similar devices. The new initiative will enable all Android phone makers to more easily implement hardware security features that match the functionality and security of Pixel phones (which use Google's Titan M secure element chip). A secure element is discrete, tamper-resistant hardware that protects the integrity a user's data, keys, wallet, etc. The Android Ready SE Alliance has specific requirements to ensure that implementations are secure. The Alliance is also releasing specific software called SE Applets, which run on the secure element chips and implement specific features "in conjunction with corresponding Android feature releases". The first Applet is StrongBox, which simply stores and handles cryptographic keys. The next two Applets will be for digital IDs (including mobile driver's licenses) and digital car keys. Phone makers can choose secure element chips from any of the five participating hardware vendors: Giesecke+Devrient, Kigen, NXP, STMicroelectronics, and Thales.
Metro by T-Mobile customers now have access to T-Mobile Tuesdays, the rewards program that gives out freebies and special deals on a variety of products and services every Tuesday. Next week's T-Mobile Tuesdays deal is a free, season-long subscription to MLB.tv, a $130 value. T-Mobile claims that the combined annual value of T-Mobile Tuesdays deals is almost $1,000. To access the deals, Metro customers need to download the T-Mobile Tuesdays app, available for both iOS and Android.