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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.

by:  Google


Google Adding Data Safety Info to Android App Listings

Yesterday, 10:01 AM   by Rich Brome

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's New Phone for Visible Offers Wireless Charging for Under $200

Apr 27, 2021, 8:00 AM   by Rich Brome

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.


Cat Adds Antimicrobial Material to its S42 Smartphone

Apr 20, 2021, 10:13 AM   by Rich Brome

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 Grows 20 Series with Two New Models for US

Apr 14, 2021, 10:00 AM   by Rich Brome

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 Promises Updates for Current Phones

Apr 8, 2021, 9:14 AM   by Rich Brome

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".


New App Categories now Available for Android Auto

Apr 5, 2021, 3:59 PM   by Rich Brome

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.


Supreme Court Rules Google's Use of Java in Android is Fair Use

Apr 5, 2021, 9:55 AM   by Rich Brome

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.


CAT S62 Pro Features Advanced Thermal Imaging

Apr 1, 2021, 7:00 AM   by Rich Brome

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 Makes Google's Messages the Default Messaging App on All Android Phones

Mar 29, 2021, 4:12 PM   by Rich Brome

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 Standardizing Secure Element Interfaces for Digital Keys, IDs, and Wallets

Mar 29, 2021, 10:45 AM   by Rich Brome

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.


T-Mobile Extends T-Mobile Tuesdays to Metro

Mar 24, 2021, 10:28 AM   by Rich Brome

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.


OnePlus 9 Series has Hasselblad Color, 50-Megapixel Wide Camera

Mar 23, 2021, 10:00 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Mar 29, 2021, 10:22 AM

OnePlus today announced the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro, its newest flagship phones. The 9 Pro is a true flagship-class phone with a QHD AMOLED display with variable refresh from 1 to 120 Hz, and IP68 water rating, starting at $969. The standard OnePlus 9 is priced more like an "affordable flagship" at $729, but keeps many high-end specs like a Snapdragon 888 chip, 50-megapixel wide-angle camera, 120 Hz display, and wireless charging. Both models include "Hasselblad Camera for Mobile", which tunes the coloring of photos in auto mode "to bring more perceptually accurate and natural-looking colors to photos". The phones also include a Hasselblad Pro Mode, optimized for professionals who prefer to capture in 12-bit RAW for post-processing. OnePlus and Hasselblad have established a long-term partnership that will extend to phone sensors and optics in the future.

  • The OnePlus 9 sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip, sub-6 GHz 5G (including the forthcoming C-band), 8–12 GB LPDDR5 RAM, 128–256 GB UFS 3.1 storage, 4,500 mAh battery, Warp Charge 65T fast charging, 15W Qi wireless charging, 6.55-inch FHD+ AMOLED display with 120 Hz refresh and HDR10+, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth 5.2. Its main camera is 48 megapixel and can capture 8K video. A wide-angle camera clocks in at 50 megapixel and has a "Freeform" lens that reduces edge distortion. The wide camera doubles as a high-quality macro camera, and the camera app has a new Tilt-Shift mode. There's also an extra monochrome camera and a 16 megapixel front camera. Other features include Android 11, OnePlus' signature sliding alert switch, stereo speakers, NFC, and an in-display fingerprint reader. The lightweight frame is made from fiberglass-reinforced polymer. In the US, it will be available in two glossy finishes: Winter Mist (purple) or Astral Black. The base version is 8 / 128 GB for $729, with the 12 / 256 GB model going for $829 (in black only).
  • The OnePlus 9 Pro builds on the standard model with numerous upgrades, including mmWave 5G, IP68 water resistance rating, aluminum frame, and 50W fast wireless charging. Battery and memory specs are the same. The display is slightly larger at 6.7 inches and has been upgraded with QHD+ resolution and curved sides. The display also features "Fluid Display 2.0", which automatically adjusts the refresh rate as needed from 120 Hz all the way down to 1 Hz, which saves battery life. This is made possible by an AMOLED display panel with a low-temperature polycrystalline oxide (LTPO) backplane layer. The phone senses ambient light from both the front and back, to automatically adjust both brightness and color temperature of the display. As for cameras, the main 48-megapixel sensor has been upgraded to a custom-designed IMX789 sensor, co-developed with Sony, with OIS. The 50-megapixel wide camera is the same, but a 3.3x telephoto camera has been added, with 8 megapixel resolution and OIS. The Pro also adds laser focusing and an extra microphone for audio zoom when recording video. The OnePlus 9 Pro be available in glossy Morning Mist (silver) with 8 / 128 GB for $969. The step-up 12 / 256 GB version will run $1,069 and come in Morning Mist or matte Pine Green.
Both phones include a 65W fast charger that can charge the phone to 100% in less than 30 minutes. The included charger can also charge third-party devices such as laptops at up to 45W. Both phones also support industry-standard fast charging at up to 18W. T-Mobile will offer the OnePlus 9 in the 8 / 128 GB version, in both color options, and the OnePlus 9 Pro 12 / 256 GB version in Morning Mist (silver). Both phones are also compatible with, and certified for, Verizon's 4G and 5G networks. Pre-orders start March 26th, with full availability on April 2nd from oneplus.com, T-Mobile, Amazon, Best Buy, and B&H.

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Motorola Brings New Video Chat Mode, Mobile Desktop, and Android 11 to edge+

Mar 17, 2021, 11:08 AM   by Rich Brome

Motorola starting rolling out the Android 11 update to its edge+ flagship phone today. The update includes one surprise feature addition: wired video output including a full windowed mobile desktop experience. Connecting the phone to a TV or monitor automatically launches a new software experience that Motorola calls "Ready For". It focuses on four areas: In addition to Gaming and the Mobile Desktop (which supports a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse), there are also Video Chat and TV modes. The Video Chat mode lets you pick between the main camera or the 16 megapixel wide camera, and works with all major video chat services, including Zoom, Teams, and Meet. The TV mode shows a dashboard of all your favorite video streaming apps. Motorola also launched a new accessory called the Ready For dock, which makes it easy to position the phone at the best angle for video chats, and can be mounted to a tripod.


VaccineFinder.org Available via Apple Maps and Google Maps

Mar 16, 2021, 2:38 PM   by Rich Brome

Google and Apple have teamed with VaccineFinder.org — a project of Boston Children's Hospital — to add COVID-19 vaccine location information to both the Google Maps and Apple Maps apps. iPhone users can find nearby vaccination locations from the Search bar in Apple Maps by selecting COVID-19 Vaccines in the Find Nearby menu, or by asking Siri, "Where can I get a COVID vaccination?" On Android, users can search for "vaccines near me" or "covid vaccine (city name)" in Google Maps. The data includes over 20,000 vaccine locations in the US.


Asus ROG Phone 5 Maxes Out Specs, Adds a Rear Display

Mar 10, 2021, 11:43 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Mar 10, 2021, 11:51 AM

Asus today announced the ROG Phone 5, its newest flagship gaming phone, following the ROG Phone 3. The ROG Phone 5 brings the ROG Phone series up to date for 2021 with a Snapdragon 888 chip, Android 11, and 65-watt fast charging for its huge 6,000 mAh battery. The AMOLED display is also brighter and larger at 6.78 inches, and has an industry-leading 300 Hz touch sampling rate. The display specs are otherwise similar to the ROG Phone 3: 144 Hz refresh, HDR10+, and FHD+ resolution. The ROG Phone 5 will come in three versions. The standard model is available with 8 or 16 GB of RAM and 128 or 256 GB storage. A Pro model adds a small full-color display to the back, set at an angle, to show "customizable animations in response to a variety of system and in-game events". It's also available with up to 512 GB of storage. An Ultimate model steps up to 18 GB of RAM, and has a monochrome rear display. All three models use high-performance LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.1 storage. All three models also have sub-6 GHz 5G and will come in a North American version with support for nearly all of the 4G and 5G frequency bands used in the US, including band 77 for forthcoming C-band 5G networks. The ROG Phone 5 is the first in the series without an obvious air vent on the back for cooling, although Asus claims that its "GameCool 5" cooling system is "upgraded" to keep the processor from thermal throttling. The phone also has upgraded wireless, supporting Wi-Fi 6e and Bluetooth 5.2. A number of specs and features remain unchanged from the previous model, including the exact same array of cameras: 64 megapixel main, 13 megapixel wide, 5 megapixel macro, and 24 megapixel front camera. Other signature ROG Phone features remain, such as AirTrigger shoulder controls, front-facing stereo speakers, and an extra USB-C port on the side, for comfortable landscape gaming while charging. A 65W fast charger is included, and the phone also supports the Quick Charge 5.0 and USB-PD 3.0 fast charging standards. ASUS ROG Phone 5 series will be available in North America starting next quarter.

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Apple Launches Tool to Copy Your Photos from iCloud to Google Photos

Mar 5, 2021, 11:01 AM   by Rich Brome

Apple has taken the unusual step of making it easier to switch from an iPhone to Android by launching a new web tool that helps you copy photos and videos stored in iCloud Photos to Google Photos. Available at privacy.apple.com, the service supports photos, videos, and basic albums, including a variety of file formats and "some" RAW files. The service does not support Smart Albums, Live Photos, and certain RAW files. Also unsupported are shared albums, photo stream content, and certain metadata. The process takes three to seven days, and Apple renames albums and videos to start with "Copy of ".


/e/ Starts Selling "De-Googled" Samsung Phones in US

Mar 5, 2021, 10:48 AM   by Rich Brome

Esolutions has started selling privacy-focused phones preloaded with the /e/ OS in the US. The /e/ OS is based on an open-source version of Android 10 (LineageOS, specifically) without any Google-controlled services that would enable tracking and data scanning by Google or third parties. /e/ replaces Chrome with its own Chromium-based browser, Gmail with K-9 Mail, and has its own app store and cloud storage service. Many popular third-party apps rely on Google Play Services for important functions like push notifications. /e/ OS includes a dummy API called MicroG to ensure such third-party apps don't crash, but those features like push notifications remain non-functional. Esolutions has offered phones pre-loaded with /e/ OS in Europe for some time, but has just started sales in the US for the first time. There are two refurbished Samsungs to choose from: a Galaxy S9 for $380, or a Galaxy S9+ for $430. The phones come with a one-year warranty and the e Foundation says "We aim to support with at least 3 years of software updates and security patches." The /e/ OS is also available for download for a number of other Android phones.


VinSmart Enters US Market with Two Sub-$100 Phones for AT&T

Feb 25, 2021, 2:00 PM   by Rich Brome

Vietnamese manufacturer VinSmart has officially entered the US phone market thanks to a deal with AT&T for "nearly 2 million smartphones". AT&T (and its Cricket prepaid brand) recently started selling two distinct entry-level phone models from VinSmart. Both are under $100 and are white-labeled, meaning they bear the AT&T or Cricket brand (instead of VinSmart or its Vsmart brand). AT&T has turned to Chinese manufacturer Tinno for such phones in recent years. But with the US government's hostile posture toward Chinese telecom companies in the last few years, AT&T may be looking to diversify its suppliers beyond China. The more affordable of the two models is the AT&T Fusion Z. It has a 6-inch HD display and USB-C, but its specs are otherwise minimal, including Android Go Edition, a Snapdragon 215 chip, and a 5 megapixel main camera. AT&T Prepaid shows the list price as $80 but is selling it for $40. Walmart is selling the same phone as the "Motivate" for $50. The slightly higher-end model is the Cricket Influence, which runs full Android 10 thanks to 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 460 chip. Features include a fingerprint reader, modern notched HD display with Gorilla Glass 3, and a 13-megapixel camera plus depth camera for portrait mode. Both phones have a headset jack and memory card slot. Cricket shows a list price of $110 for the Influence, but is selling it for $40 to both new and existing customers. Walmart is selling the same phone for AT&T Prepaid as the AT&T Maestro Plus, for $90. The original "AT&T Maestro" was manufactured by Tinno.


Android Auto Adds Games, Wallpaper, Split-Screen View

Feb 23, 2021, 12:43 PM   by Rich Brome

Google is rolling out a major update to Android Auto. The new version includes car-optimized games such as trivia and "Jeopardy!". The feature can be activated by saying "Hey Google, play a game". Users can now "select from a variety of car-inspired backgrounds to personalize your car display". Finally, on "cars with wider screens", a new split-screen view "features a real-time view of Google Maps and media controls". The update will be available in the coming days for phones with Android 6 and above.


Google Now Lets You Schedule a Text in Messages

Feb 23, 2021, 12:35 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has started rolling out an update to it Messages app that lets users schedule a text message to send at a later time. The feature is designed for people with "loved ones in another time zone or on a different schedule". To use the feature, simply press and hold the send button to reveal a new pop-up menu for scheduling. The menu provides several suggested times as shortcuts, plus an option to pick any specific date and time. The feature will be available in the next Messages update for phones running Android 7 and newer.


San Francisco's Clipper Transit Card Coming to Apple Pay, Google Pay

Feb 22, 2021, 11:49 AM   by Rich Brome

Clipper Card — the universal transit fare card for all 24 San Francisco Bay Area transit agencies — will be supported in Apple Pay and Google Pay digital wallets "this spring". Residents and visitors will be able to add a stored-value Clipper card to their digital wallet and tap their phones to ride transit, replacing a physical Clipper card. The system differs from those in cities (such as New York and Chicago) offering "open" fare payments made directly from a credit or debit card in Google Pay / Apple Pay. Apple has launched a page where people can sign up to be notified when Clipper is available for iPhone and Apple Watch. Separately, Google announced a new feature of Google Maps that lets users buy and present transit fare payments — including Clipper, when available — without leaving the Maps app, as part of turn-by-turn directions that include transit.


Android 12 Released to Developers

Feb 18, 2021, 4:50 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has released the first preview version of Android 12 to developers. As a developer release, it focuses on APIs and other developer-focused aspects, rather than necessarily representing the final look and feature set for consumers. Several new features are notable, though:

  • Project Mainline continues to expand, with Google adding the Android Runtime (ART) module to the list of software that Google can update directly through the Play Store, instead of requiring a full OS update approved by manufacturers and carriers. ART handles compiling app code into processor instructions.
  • Better support for newer image and video formats. Specifically, support for the AV1 image file format (AVIF), and better support for the HEVC video format.
  • Rich content insertion, which makes it easier for apps to support copy-and-paste of styled text and multimedia. The new API for rich content also supports drag-and-drop.
  • Haptic-coupled audio effect, which lets apps more easily add haptic effects by linking them to an audio channel.
  • Multi-channel audio, including support for spatial information encoded with MPEG-H, and enabling apps to mix and process up to 24 audio channels.
  • Finally, the Notification UI has been updated to make "custom" notifications look and work more like other notification types.
This first developer release is "for developers only and not intended for daily or consumer use". Android 11 reached this milestone at almost exactly the same point last year. Google's planned timeline for Android 12 shows public betas starting on May, with final release no earlier than August.


Essential Goes to Nothing

Feb 15, 2021, 4:05 PM   by Rich Brome

Nothing, Technologies, a new startup from former OnePlus executive Carl Pei, has purchased the Essential brand. Essential was a phone startup founded by Android creator Andy Rubin after he left Google.


Google Photos Gains New Video Editor, Plus Extra Features for Google One Members

Feb 11, 2021, 12:26 PM   by Rich Brome

Google today announced a new video editor as part of Google Photos. The company also announced that some advanced, AI-powered features previously available only on Pixel phones will now be available on more phones, but only for Google One subscribers. The new video editor adds features to "crop, change perspective, add filters, apply granular edits (including brightness, contrast, saturation and warmth) and more." This is in addition to existing features to trim, stabilize and rotate videos. It's available now in Google Photos for iOS, and "will be rolling out to most Android users in the coming weeks". In the coming months, iOS users will also get the revamped photo editor that rolled out to Android users late last year. Google One subscribers on Android will also get several new features that were previously restricted to Pixel phones. In the coming days, those users will see an updated Google Photos app that includes Portrait Blur, Portrait Light, and new "Dynamic" and "sky" filters. All of these new feature use machine learning to apply advanced effects in a realistic way to any photo, including those captured without depth information. Google One memberships start at $2/month.


Google Fi Extending Free VPN to iPhones

Feb 11, 2021, 11:09 AM   by Rich Brome

Google Fi today announced that its free VPN service is exiting beta for Android, and will "roll out ... to iPhone starting this spring." The VPN service protects against IP address tracking and hacking while using unsecure Wi-Fi networks.


New Unified Messaging App Promises to Bring iMessage to Android

Jan 25, 2021, 12:58 PM   by Rich Brome

Beeper is a new $10/month app and service that unifies over a dozen different messaging services into one unified, searchable chat interface. It supports iMessage, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Android Messages (SMS), Telegram, Twitter, Slack, Instagram, Skype, Discord, Signal, and more. It's available for iOS, Android, MacOS, Windows, and Linux. The service supports iMessage via one of two "bridge" methods: 1. the Beeper app running on a Mac that is always connected to the internet, or 2. "we send each user a Jailbroken iPhone with the Beeper app installed which bridges to iMessage". Beeper offers an open API called Matrix that enables bots, extensions, plugins, and integrations. The various "bridges" that power Beeper are open-source, enabling security audits as well as free self-hosting.


Samsung's Galaxy S21 Flagships are Prettier and More Affordable

Jan 14, 2021, 10:00 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 19, 2021, 11:10 AM

Samsung today officially unveiled its Galaxy S21 series of flagship phones for 2021. All three models sport a distinctive new "Contour Cut Camera" design where the metal frame extends around one corner to surround the rear cameras. Each of the three new phones has a starting price a full $200 lower than last year's models. Samsung achieved this on the S21 and S21+ by reducing RAM from 12 to 8 GB and switching from curved QHD-resolution displays to flat FHD displays. Also, none of the S21 series has a memory card slot nor ToD depth camera. Naturally the processor has been updated on all models to Qualcomm's new flagship chip, the Snapdragon 888. Samsung is also using Qualcomm's new Gen 2. ultrasonic in-display fingerprint reader, which offers a 70% larger sensing area and is 50% faster. The phones ship with Android 11 and have a number of software improvements to the camera, such as Director's View, Vlogger View, and multi-mic recording. Samsung has also used AI to improve Single Take, Portrait Mode, and Space Zoom. The camera hardware on the S21 and S21+ is nearly identical to that on the S20 series. The S21 Ultra has the most-upgraded specs of the three, despite starting at a lower price than last year's model.

  • Galaxy S21: The specs are very similar to last year's S20, including 4,000 mAh battery, 120 Hz refresh display, 64-megapixel main camera, 8K video capture, IP68 water resistance, fast wireless charging, and Wireless PowerShare. Unlike the S20, the S21 will come with mmWave 5G (including support for Verizon's "Ultra Wideband" network) from day one. It will come with 128 GB of storage, in Phantom Violet, Phantom Gray, Phantom Pink, and Phantom White, for $800. A 256 GB version will also be available in Phantom Gray for an extra $50. Phantom Gold and Phantom Red colors will be available exclusively from samsung.com.
  • Galaxy S21+: Its 4,800 mAh battery is larger than that in both the S21 and last year's S20+. It also adds UWB for directional tag-finding and wireless car keys. This is the first time Samsung has put UWB in its S-series. It retains all of the other specs and features of the S21, with a larger 6.7-inch display like the S20+. It will come with 128 GB storage, in Phantom Violet, Phantom Silver, and Phantom Black, for $1,000. A 256 GB version will also be available in Phantom Black for an additional $50. As with the S21, samsung.com will be exclusive seller of Phantom Gold and Phantom Red colors.
  • Galaxy S21 Ultra: This top-end model keeps the curved-edge, QHD-resolution display, 12 GB RAM, 108 megapixel main camera, and 40-megapixel front camera of last year's model, while adding several new features, all for a lower $1200 starting price. New this year is Wacom technology bringing full support for Samsung's S Pen, previously only offered on the Note series. The S Pen is an optional accessory. It also adds UWB, Wi-Fi 6e, adaptive display refresh from 10 – 120 Hz for power efficiency, and the ability to use 120 Hz refresh at QHD resolution. The telephoto camera system now includes dedicated 3x and 10x cameras, both 10 megapixel with OIS and dual-pixel auto-focus. All five cameras (front and back) can now shoot 4K video at 60 fps. The 108mp main sensor now has 12-bit HDR and can capture 12-bit RAW photos. It also has laser auto-focus. Pricing starts at $1,200 for 12 GB RAM / 128 GB storage in Phantom Silver or Phantom Black. Versions with 12 / 256 GB (for an extra $50) or 16 / 512 GB (for $1,380) will also be available, in Phantom Black only. Samsung.com exclusive colors will include Phantom Titanium, Phantom Navy. and Phantom Brown.
All three phones will launch on major US carriers as well as unlocked on January 29th. Pre-orders start January 14th at 11am ET. All pre-orders will include a free Galaxy SmartTag, and consumers who pre-order the S21 Ultra get a $200 credit to use on samsung.com or the Shop Samsung app.

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Motorola Unveils Full Affordable Lineup for 2021

Jan 8, 2021, 9:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Motorola today unveiled a full lineup of four new affordable phones, including three g-series models ranging from $169 – $299 and one 5G model for $399. All four feature large batteries (4,000 – 5,000 mAh) and large displays (6.5 – 6.8 inches). All four also include a fingerprint reader, multiple cameras, headset jack, memory card slot, USB-C connector, and a "water-repellant design" that protects against accidental spills, splashes, sweat, or light rain. They ship with Android 10 and Motorola promises one full OS version update plus two years of security updates. Moto's latest camera app supports AI scene detection and optimization, Google Lens, portrait mode, RAW format, Active Photos, Auto Smile Capture, Gesture Selfie, time-lapse, and slow-motion on all models. All four also support gestures such as Lift to unlock, Flip for DND (Do Not Disturb), Pick up to silence, and Fast flashlight, where a quick double-chop motion turns the flashlight on or off. All four phones will be available unlocked as well as from many US carriers.

  • moto g play (2021): The most affordable at $170, this phone has a 6.5-inch HD display with notch, huge 5,000 mAh battery, Qualcomm Snapdragon 460 chipset, 3 GB RAM, and 32 GB built-in storage. Its primary 13 megapixel camera is assisted by a depth camera for portrait mode, and the front camera is 5 megapixel. It also has 10W fast charging. The new moto g play will be offered in the coming months by AT&T, Cricket, Boost Mobile, Consumer Cellular, Google Fi, Metro by T-Mobile, T-Mobile, Republic Wireless, Verizon, and Xfinity Mobile.
  • moto g power (2021): Upgrades compared to the g play include: Snapdragon 662 chipset, 4 GB RAM, 64 GB storage, up to 15W fast charging, "48 megapixel" main camera that outputs 12-megapixel photos using pixel binning, 2-megapixel macro camera, and an 8-megapixel front camera. The upgraded main camera enables a Night Vision mode and better low-light performance in general. The camera app also gains Cinemagraph mode, Group Selfie, and Spot Color for video. The fingerprint reader moves to the side and the display is slightly larger at 6.6 inches, with a corner hole-punch design. This new moto g power will sell for $250, although Best Buy will sell a variant with 3 GB RAM and 32 GB storage for $200. It will also come to Boost Mobile, Cricket, Consumer Cellular, Google Fi, Republic Wireless, US Cellular, Verizon, and Xfinity Mobile in the coming months.
  • moto g stylus (2021): This model adds a stylus that stows in the bottom-right of the phone. It comes with two special apps: Moto Note and Coloring Book. The stylus also offers system-wide shortcuts and works with third-party apps. This is the only model of the four to come with a smaller 4,000 mAh battery, which Motorola says was necessary to make room for the stylus. It has several spec upgrades compared to the g power, including a larger 6.8-inch display with full-HD resolution, Snapdragon 678 chipset, 128 GB storage, 8-megapixel wide-angle camera, 16 megapixel selfie camera, and 4K video capture. It will sell for $300 unlocked. Boost Mobile, Cricket, Consumer Cellular, and Republic Wireless will also offer it in the coming months.
  • Motorola one 5G ace: Combines the best of the g power and g stylus specs (minus the stylus) while adding 5G (sub-6 GHz only) thanks to its Snapdragon 750G chipset. Other upgrades include 6 GB RAM, NFC, and an official IP rating for water resistance: IP54 for the T-Mobile version and IP52 for other versions. The display measures 6.7 inches with a centered hole-punch design, and the fingerprint reader is located on the back. It will run $400 unlocked. AT&T, Consumer Cellular, Google Fi, Metro by T-Mobile, T-Mobile, Republic Wireless, Verizon, and Xfinity Mobile will also offer it in the coming months.
Unlocked versions of all four phones are available for pre-order starting today, with full availability on January 14th. Unlocked models can be purchased from Best Buy, Walmart, B&H Photo, Amazon, and motorola.com.


Boost Launches LG K22 for Under $100

Jan 4, 2021, 4:43 PM   by Rich Brome

Boost has launched the new LG K22, an affordable, entry-level phone with a large 6.2-inch HD notched display. Normally priced at $90, Boost is currently offering the phone for just $70. Other specs include a 3,000 mAh battery, Android 10, Qualcomm 215 processor, 2 GB RAM, and 32 GB of internal storage plus a memory card slot supporting up to 32 GB more. Its 13 megapixel PDAF rear camera is accompanied by a 2 megapixel macro camera. The front camera is 5 megapixel. The camera app supports full-HD video capture and Google Lens. Like most current LG phones, it has a dedicated Google Assistant button on the side. It also includes a 3.5mm headset jack.


Samsung's Next Major Phone Launch set for Jan. 14

Jan 4, 2021, 12:18 PM   by Rich Brome

Samsung has set January 14th at 10 AM EST as the date and time for its next Unpacked event to launch its "next Galaxy" flagship device. The event will be live-streamed in samsung.com. The company is also offering $60 in instant discounts when customers "reserve" a pre-order prior to the event. The $60 comes in the form of $50 toward accessories in your order, plus $10 in the Android Shop Samsung App. The event is widely anticipated to include the Samsung Galaxy S21, the company's next flagship phone. A teaser video for the event features a series of past Galaxy S flagship phones.


Qualcomm To Support Four Years of Android Updates on Snapdragon Chips

Dec 16, 2020, 1:30 PM   by Rich Brome

Qualcomm and Google have collaborated to "enhance and extend" Project Treble, Google's initiative to make make it easier for phone makers to offer OS updates (major and minor) faster, more often, and for longer after a phone has launched. Offering an OS update for a phone requires work on the part of both the phone maker and the maker of the phone's chipset. Qualcomm has now committed to doing that work for all of its Snapdragon chipsets for four years after launch, starting with the new Snapdragon 888. This will make it easier for phone makers using those chipsets to offer OS updates to consumers, hopefully leading to more — and more timely — OS updates for Snapdragon-based phones, including major new versions of Android as well security updates. The new commitment is made possible by tweaks to the structure of Project Treble that dramatically reduce the work required to support OS updates across old vs. new devices, as well as across different chipsets.


Google Intros Free Look To Speak Accessibility App

Dec 8, 2020, 12:08 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has launched Look To Speak, a new, free accessibility app for people living with speech and motor impairments, particularly those who are non-verbal and require assistance to communicate. This Android app "lets people use their eyes to choose pre-written phrases for their phone to speak out loud". Users can customize available phrases and fine-tune the eye gaze sensitivity. All of the data is private and never leaves the phone.


Google Rolls Out Live Wallpapers Pulled from Old Google Photos

Dec 4, 2020, 12:53 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has rolled out a new feature of Google Photos that makes important old photos stored with the service available as a Live Wallpaper on many Android phones. When the new "Memories" Live Wallpaper is enabled, the phone's wallpaper will automatically change to show a rotating selection of old photos curated by Google's AI. The feature is available on Android phones with Google's Live Wallpaper feature and Google Photos 5.22 or later.


Qualcomm Explains How its Snapdragon 888 Will Make Flagship Phones More Powerful in 2021

Dec 2, 2020, 10:00 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Dec 2, 2020, 12:26 PM

Qualcomm today fully announced the Snapdragon 888 chip and provided details on its features and performance. As the company's new top-end chip for phones, the 888 is expected to power many flagship-tier Android phones in 2021, just as its predecessor the 865 powered most Android flagships in 2020. While the 865 was a two-chip solution (processor + modem), the 888 is fully integrated in one chip. It uses a state-of-the-art 5nm manufacturing process for better efficiency. It's the first chip to support 5G CA (carrier aggregation) across TDD and FDD, sub-6 and mmWave, enabling faster 5G in more scenarios, including on US networks. The eight-core CPU offers a 25% performance boost compared to last year's 865. The GPU is 35% faster and 20% more power-efficient. The AI cores are 43% faster overall, with double the compute capacity, 3x performance per watt, and 26 TOPS (trillion operations per second). The ISP (camera processor) is 35% faster. New features of the 888 include:

  • A new 2nd-Generation Sensing Hub with 5x more AI performance and TensorFlow Micro to enable more low-power, always-on features like earthquake and car crash detection. The Sensing Hub can also tap into communication streams (such as GPS, 5G, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth) for the first time, enabling more types of always-on intelligent features.
  • Support for capture of 10-bit color still photos, saved in HEIF format.
  • Triple-core Spectra ISP can handle three active cameras, simultaneously capturing three 4K HDR videos or three 28 megapixel still photos with zero lag.
  • CAI-compliant camera system, which allows the capture of cryptographically-sealed photos that then can be securely authenticated to confirm their source, and that they haven't been modified.
  • Support for new staggered HDR camera sensors, which offer computational HDR with low ghosting by taking multiple exposures of different lengths nearly simultaneously. The 888's triple ISP can then combine these exposures instantly. This enables computational HDR for video.
  • Variable Rate Shading (VRS), which can offer an increase of up to 30% in gameplay performance.
  • Game Quick Touch, for 10–20% faster touch response time.
  • A Type-1 Hypervisor that can run multiple OSes isolated at a hardware level, and let the user switch between them instantly. It can also be used to spawn a dedicated, isolated OS for each security-sensitive app on the phone.
Phones based on the Snapdragon 888 will start shipping in early 2021.


Snapdragon 888 Will be Qualcomm's Next Premium Chip

Dec 1, 2020, 10:31 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Dec 1, 2020, 11:48 AM

At Qualcomm's Snapdragon Tech Summit event, the company announced its next top-end Snapdragon chip, the Snapdragon 888. The 888 is expected to power most flagship Android phones in 2021. Although Qualcomm is saving many details for tomorrow's keynote, it did reveal a few top-level features of the chip. With its X60 modem, it will support 5G carrier aggregation (CA), which can offer up to double the sub-6 GHz 5G data rates compared to chips without 5G CA. The 888 is the first chipset to support 5G CA across TDD and FDD bands, as well as across sub-6 and mmWave bands. The updated Spectra ISP can capture roughly 120 photos per second at 12 megapixel resolution (a total throughput of 2.7 gigapixels per second). The new 6th-generation AI engine can process 26 tera operations per second (TOPS), (compared to 15 TOPS for last year's Snapdragon 865). AI is also part of the new 2nd-generation Sensing Hub, which incorporates lower-power always-on AI processing "for intuitive, intelligent features". Finally, Qualcomm promises the company's "most significant upgrade" in gaming performance.


Google Pay Gains New Payment and Money Management Tools, Digital Bank Account

Nov 18, 2020, 1:32 PM   by Rich Brome

Google today launched a major revamp of its Google Pay app with a new interface and several major new features. Instead of a stack of cards and list of transactions, the new interface centers around the people and businesses you exchange money with, with a conversation-style interface for each person, group, and business. Threads for groups include a simple "split bill" tool. New built-in tools make it easier to order food at over 100,000 restaurants, buy gas at over 30,000 gas stations, and pay for parking in over 400 cities. Participating retailers can also offer cash-back rewards and discounts that automatically appear within the app. A new Insights tab lets you explore your finances and spending in several ways, including a new search feature. It can search not only Google Pay transactions, but also — with your permission — all of your bank accounts and credit cards, as well as receipts from both Gmail and your photos. For example, you can search for "food last month" and it will show all relevant transactions as well as a total dollar amount. The new Google Pay app is available now for both Android and iOS. Finally, Google also announced Plex, "a new mobile-first bank account". Plex includes checking and savings accounts with no monthly fees, overdraft charges or minimum balance requirements. You can choose which FDIC-backed financial institution backs your account, but the Plex interface is provided by Google, within the Google Pay app. It includes tools to help you set saving goals. 11 banks and credit unions have committed to participating in Plex, and a waitlist is now available for Plex accounts backed by Citi and Stanford Federal Credit Union. Plex is very similar to Samsung Money by SoFi, which launched in July.


Google Photos Phasing Out Unlimited Photo Storage

Nov 11, 2020, 3:25 PM   by Rich Brome

Google Photos will no longer offer unlimited free backup of new "High quality" content from non-Pixel phones starting June 1, 2021. Since launch, Google Photos — available for both iOS and Android — has been unique in offering this free lifetime service. Google's definition of "High quality" means compressed copies of photos up to 16 megapixel and videos up to 1080p resolution. "High quality" content uploaded to the service before the deadline will be grandfathered and kept in the cloud for free, for life, without counting against storage limits. But starting June 2021, all new "High quality" content will be treated the same as Original quality content, counting against the 15 GB total storage available with every free Google account, shared among all Google services. Users can buy more storage with a Google One subscription. The cheapest plan offers 100 GB for $2/month. All existing Google Pixel phones are exempt from this change, and will continue to enjoy free, unlimited High quality media storage. Google says the average user will still be able to store about three years of photos with a free account, but the company also launched a simple tool offering a personalized estimate. Google is also changing its storage policies across all services. Google may delete content for a particular account/service if the user is inactive or over the storage limit for two years. The company also says it will "notify you multiple times before we attempt to remove any content so you have ample opportunities to take action." Users can easily manage storage and delete old files to make space using the Google One app.


Google Adds VPN to High-End Google One Plans

Oct 29, 2020, 2:57 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has added a VPN feature to its Google One service at the 2 TB and higher levels, which start at $10/month or $100/year. The feature will roll out in the "coming weeks" for Android, and will come to other platforms including iOS in "coming months". Like any VPN, it offers extra security when using public Wi-Fi hotspots or any untrusted internet connection.


LG K92 5G Makes 5G More Affordable in US

Oct 29, 2020, 9:31 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Oct 29, 2020, 9:52 AM

LG today unveiled the K92 5G, its entry into the growing surge of phones designed to bring 5G to more affordable price points. The K92 5G will be sold by AT&T, Cricket, and US Cellular starting at just $359, breaking the $399 barrier for the first time. The K92 5G is the second phone to be announced for the US that uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 chipset, following the OnePlus Nord N10 5G earlier this week. The 690 is specifically designed to enable more-affordable 5G phones such as these. Nokia, Motorola, and TCL have also announced that they will use the 690 in forthcoming phones. The 690 supports only sub-6 GHz 5G, not mmWave. The LG K92 5G has a large 6.7-inch full-HD display, 4,000 mAh battery, Quick Charge 4, 6 GB RAM, 128 GB storage, and a memory card slot. Its quad rear cameras include a 64 megapixel (f/1.78) main camera, 5 megapixel wide camera, 2 megapixel macro camera, and depth camera. The 16-megapixel front camera sits in a large centered hole punch. It also has a side-mounted fingerprint sensor, NFC, and stereo speakers. It will ship with Android 10. It will be available from US carriers "shortly".


Google Adds Sound Notifications to Android Accessibility Features

Oct 8, 2020, 1:44 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has added a helpful new feature to Android for anyone with hearing loss or simply wearing headphones. Sound Notifications provides push notifications for critical sounds around you, including baby sounds, water running, smoke and fire alarms, appliances beeping, dog barking, and door knocking. There's also a timeline that shows past detected noise events. The feature uses offline AI. Many Android phones already have this feature, but it can also be added by downloading both Live Transcribe and Sound Notifications from the Google Play app store.


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