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.
Motorola Gets Serious About Foldables with New RAZR Lineup
Motorola has launched two new foldable phones, creating a lineup of 2023 razr phones with flexible display technology. The higher-end razr+ has the largest outer display of a modern flip-style phone, and is the thinnest when closed. The design no longer features a "chin", bringing it closer to Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip series in appearance, and Motorola is matching Samsung on price at $1,000. The lower-end model will presumably be more affordable, breaking new ground in the US as a sub-$1,000 foldable at launch. Both new razr phones have the same 6.9-inch AMOLED inner display with FHD+ resolution, HDR10+, and at least 144 Hz refresh (165 Hz for the razr+).
- The 2023 razr+ is powered by a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip paired with 8 GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 256 GB of UFS 3.1 storage. The large AMOLED outer display surrounds the outer cameras. It measures 3.6 inches and sports 1066 x 1056 resolution, HDR10+, and up to 144 Hz refresh. Motorola has created a new software experience for the large outer display that includes functionality for apps like Google Maps, Google News, Google Wallet, weather, and Spotify. It also has new customization options and even mini-games. The battery is 3,800 mAh. The main camera is 12 megapixel with f/1.5, dual-pixel PDAF, and OIS. Standard colors are Glacier Blue and Infinite Black, both of which employ a 7000-series aluminum frame and Gorilla Glass Victus on both sides. A Viva Magenta (Pantone color of the year) edition swaps out glass for vegan leather on the bottom half. This color will be exclusive to T-Mobile in the US.
- The 2023 razr will be a more affordable option and perhaps the most affordable foldable phone on the market, although Motorola has not yet set a specific price. Its OLED outer display is a more modest 1.5 inches with just 194 x 368 resolution. Powering the phone is a Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 chip paired with 8 GB RAM and 128 GB storage. The main camera is 64 megapixel (f/1.7) with OIS and laser autofocus. Interestingly, the battery is larger at 4,200 mAh. The design consists of 7000-series aluminum, vegan leather, and Gorilla Glass Victus protecting the outer display. It will come in Sage Green, Summer Lilac, and Vanilla Cream.
Nokia Refreshes Entry-Level Android Lineup for US
HMD Global today announced two new very affordable Nokia 4G smartphones for the US. The Nokia C110 and C300 will sell for $99 and $139, respectively. Both have an HD+ display, 13 megapixel main camera, 3 GB RAM, 32 GB storage (expandable), IP52 water resistance, and Android 12. The Nokia C110 has a 6.3-inch display, 3,000 mAh battery, and is powered by a MediaTek Helio P22 chip. The Nokia C300 has a 6.52-inch display, 4,000 mAh battery, fingerprint reader, macro and depth cameras, and is powered by a Snapdragon 662 chip. Both phones go on sale this month. The C110 comes in grey and will be available from Walmart, Target, Consumer Cellular, and Tracfone. The C300 comes in blue and will be offered by Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Amazon, Consumer Cellular, and Tracfone.
ChatGPT Now available as an iPhone App
The conversational AI app is available now, for free, in the US. ChatGPT Plus subscribers get additional features. It will come to Android and other countries soon.
Teams, Zoom, and Webex Coming to Android Auto
Google is working with the major video conferencing providers to enable audio-only versions of their apps for Android Auto. The apps would simply let you join a previously scheduled meeting.
Google Bringing Generative AI to Android Messages, Wallpaper
Google today announced several new features of Android's wallpaper options and the Google Messages app. The Messages app gains Magic Compose, a new feature that uses AI to enhance your messages by rewriting them for you in the style of your choice. In Android, the wallpaper tools will expand this fall to includes Generative AI Wallpaper. This feature will let users create a completely original wallpaper image based on a structured text prompt. Sooner — next month — Pixel owners will gain access to Emoji Wallpaper and and Cinematic Wallpaper. Emoji Wallpaper lets Android users create unique, personalized wallpaper based on a user-chosen combination of several emoji and one of several patterns or colors. The wallpaper are also slightly interactive, responding to touch. Cinematic Wallpaper takes an existing photo and uses AI to make it a 3D image with a subject that moves independently from the background as you move the phone.
Apple and Google Collaborate on Anti-Stalker Tech
Apple and Google have announced a new industry standard that will enable cross-platform alerts when people are potentially being tracked without their consent using any popular Bluetooth location-tracking device, regardless of manufacturer. For example, this would allow someone to receive an alert on their Android phone when an unknown Apple AirTag seems to be following them, or the same for an Apple iPhone and a Samsung SmartTag. Current anti-stalker features are either siloed in one company's ecosystem or require the manual download and use of a special app. This new standard will eventually come baked right into both iOS and Android. Besides Apple and Google, "Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, eufy Security, and Pebblebee have expressed support for the draft specification, which offers best practices and instructions for manufacturers, should they choose to build these capabilities into their products." Today marks the start of a three-month comment period on the draft standard. The companies plan to finalize the standard by the end of 2023 and implement it "in future versions" of iOS and Android.
Motorola's New Flagship Gets its Signature Edge Back
Motorola has taken the wraps off the new edge+ (2023), its flagship phone for the US this year. This year's model brings back the curved-edge OLED display that was a hallmark of the edge series until last year's model switched to a flat display. The curved sides give the phone slimmer bezels and a narrower body that's easier to hold. Both the front and back are made of Gorilla Glass Victus that's curved on all four edges, helping the phone feel thinner. Also, this year's model is actually thinner at just 8.39 mm. The sandblasted aluminum frame rounds out the IP68 waterproof body, another improvement over last year's model. The fast charging is more than twice as fast at 68 watts, and the battery itself is larger at 5,100 mAh. There's also two-way wireless charging (15W/5W). While the display is still 6.7 inches, HDR10+, and FHD+ resolution, the refresh is faster at 165 Hz. The two 50 megapixel cameras (main and wide/macro) are joined by a new 12 megapixel 2x telephoto "portrait" camera. The front camera is 60 megapixels. Naturally, the processor gets an update to the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 from Qualcomm. There's also 8 GB of LPDDR5x RAM and 256–512 GB of UFS 4.0 storage (not expandable). Connectivity includes USB 3.2, Bluetooth 5.3 with LE Audio, NFC, and the phone is Wi-Fi 7 ready. The edge+ supports Motorola's ReadyFor connections to TVs and monitors (wired and wireless). The camera app sports a new 360º "Horizon Lock" feature that mimics a gimbal. Also new are Night Vision and portrait modes for video. The edge+ comes with Android 13, three OS upgrades, and four years of security updates. Boost Infinite and Boost Mobile will be first to offer the new edge+ (2023) starting in one week, May 9th. Spectrum and Consumer Cellular will also offer the phone. An unlocked model with 512 GB storage will be available for $800 starting May 25th (pre-orders May 19). Only one color — Interstellar Black — will be offered in the US.
BMW Brings Enhanced Digital Car Key to Android
BMW is rolling out its Digital Key Plus feature to compatible Android phones with UWB, such as the Samsung Galaxy S23+ and Pixel 7 Pro. The feature is already available for Apple products. The enhanced "Plus" version lets you keep your phone in your pocket, whereas the earlier Digital Key feature (already available for select Android phones) requires that you tap your phone on the door handle. Cars with the feature produced since November 2022 are compatible with Android, while a future remote software update will add compatibility to older cars. Older Samsung and Google phones are compatible as well, as long as they have the necessary UWB feature. This includes most Plus and Ultra Galaxy S phones, Samsung foldables, and the Pixel 6 Pro. Digital Key Plus is based on an industry standard from the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC).
Android Will Prompt You To Update a Crashy App After a Crash
Google is rolling out a new pop-up prompt in Android that will appear immediately after certain app crashes, prompting the user to update to a more stable version of that app. Google will use the analytics it collects through the Play Store to determine which versions of apps are more crash-prone and which are more stable. When a crash occurs and a more stable version is available, the prompt will appear.
Android 14 Public Beta Available
Google has released the first public beta version of Android 14. Previous beta versions were intended only for developers. This version of Android 14 only includes a handful of minor changes visible to users, compared to Android 13. One is a smarter share-sheet, with new, faster options to share content with other people and devices. The "back" gesture has also been tweaked with a new visual interface. Most other changes are "behind the scenes" changes for developers. Google sometimes keeps new Android features hidden until it can announce them at an event like its annual I/O conference. Users wishing to try out Android 14 Beta 1 (on a non-critical device) can now enroll a recent Pixel phone in the beta program to access the software.
Google Adds National Park Trails to Maps App
Google is updating its Maps app on iOS and Android to add better navigation within US national parks, particularly for hiking trails. Instead of just showing trailheads with pins, the entire path of a trail will now be shown. The app will also now "surface helpful details from the Maps community like what type of trail it is, its difficulty, and whether it's better for running, walking, or cycling." Google will also make it easier to download offline maps for specific parks, since cell service can be spotty within many. Other improvements include a visual overview of top attractions, and better directions to trails, including cycling directions. The updates are rolling out this month for the US, and Google will expand these features "around the world in the coming months."
Google Brings Nearby Share to Windows
Google has released a public beta version of Nearby Share for Windows computers. Installing the new Nearby Share app on a Windows device makes it easy to exchange files with nearby Android phones and tablets. Google promises to enable file sharing with other Google devices (such as Chromebooks) in the future. Nearby Share uses both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and therefore requires that both be enabled on both devices. When using Nearby Share with two devices signed into the same Google account, "file transfers are automatically accepted — even if your screen is off." When the other device belongs to someone else, they will be prompted to give permission. The app requires 64-bit Windows 10 or greater; Arm devices are not supported.
Bullitt Announces First Phones with Satellite Messaging
Bullitt has announced the first Android phones that will include two-way satellite messaging capability. The Motorola defy 2 and CAT S75 are both designed to connect to Bullitt's new Satellite Connect platform. The platform enables two-way messaging via satellite, for both emergency and non-emergency use. The two phone models appear to be essentially the same phone, sporting nearly identical specs and features. Those include sub-6 5G, a 5,000 mAh battery, 15W wireless charging, 6.58-inch FHD+ display with 120 Hz refresh protected by Gorilla Glass Victus, 50 megapixel main camera, 8 megapixel wide camera, and underwater photo capture. Both phones are powered by the MediaTek Dimensity 930 chipset, paired with 6 GB RAM and 128 GB of storage (expandable with memory cards). The phones are rated IP68 and IP69K for water and dirt. They're also military rated for vibration, humidity, salt mist, and thermal shock. The phones come with Android 12 and a promise of three years of quarterly software updates (including two full OS upgrades), and two additional years of "emergency" security updates. The CAT S75 is launching initially in Europe, while the Motorola defy 2 is coming to "selected operators" in North America before the middle of the year. The defy 2 is priced at $599, which includes one year of SOS Assist via satellite. For additional satellite service, "plans start from as little as $4.99/ month". Bullitt also announced the "motorola defy satellite link", a small Bluetooth device that can add the same satellite connectivity to any iOS or Android phone.
New Bluetooth Dongle Lets Any Phone Message via Satellite
Bullitt and Motorola has unveiled the "motorola defy satellite link", a small Bluetooth device that acts as a gateway for two-way satellite messaging, adding that capability to any iOS or Android phone. Using Bullitt's Satellite Messenger service, a connected phone can both send and receive text messages where cellular service isn't available. While it includes an SOS mode, the service is also available for non-emergency use. The device has a rugged, waterproof design and multi-day battery life. It can function independently of a phone with two buttons: an SOS button and a "check in" button that sends your location to a predefined contact. The Motorola defy satellite link will be available globally in April for $99. Service is extra, starting at $4.99/month. Or, for $149, a bundle will be available that in includes the device and one year of service, including SOS Assist and up to 30 non-emergency messages per month.
TCL's Newest 5G Phone for US is Most Affordable Yet
TCL this week took the wraps off three new affordable Android phones coming to the US next quarter. All three share a similar "minimalist" design and will sell for under $200.
- The TCL 40 XE 5G is TCL's most affordable 5G phone to date at just $169. It's powered by a MediaTek Dimensity 700 chipset paired with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage. Its 6.56-inch HD+ display has 90 Hz refresh and TCL's NXTVISION display technology. The main camera is 13 megapixel.
- The TCL 40 X 5G is basically the same phone but with a better, 50 megapixel main camera. It will sell for $199.
- The TCL 40 XL is only 4G (using a MediaTek G37 chipset) but thanks to that trade-off, it offers a few upgrades for an even lower price. It has a larger screen at 6.75 inches, it has more built-in storage at 128 GB, it has a 50 megapixel camera like the 40 X, and it has stereo speakers. Yet it will sell for just $149.
Microsoft Brings its AI Chatbot to Mobile
Microsoft has added its (in)famous new AI-powered Bing chatbot to several of its mobile apps. The service, previously only available on the web and desktop apps, acts like an intelligent search engine that you can have a complete conversation with. The Bing service is based on ChatGPT from OpenAI. On mobile, Microsoft's Bing app, Edge browser app, and the Skype app now include access to the chatbot in both Android and iOS versions. In Skype, the chatbot can even be added to a group conversation.
Qualcomm Gets an Android Phone to Perform AI Image Generation
At the MWC trade show in Barcelona next week, Qualcomm will demo stable diffusion AI image generation software running completely within an Android phone powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. The technology generates whole images with only simple text descriptions as input, similar to popular cloud-based services such as DALL-E 2 and Midjourney. By running the software completely on-device, Qualcomm is demonstrating that stable diffusion AI technology is possible on mobile devices without costly cloud infrastructure. Qualcomm's AI research team created the software using Qualcomm's existing AI development stack already available to partners. The demo uses a 1-billion-parameter AI model and goes through 20 steps to generate the final image. It takes 15 seconds to generate a 512x512-pixel image, comparable to services like Midjourney.
Qualcomm vs. Bullitt: Satellite Connectivity Comparison and Hands On
Both Bullitt and Qualcomm have just announced new solutions for putting satellite connectivity in Android phones. Both services offer full two-way messaging for non-emergency use, in addition to an SOS service. Both systems are already operational and the companies were doing live demos here in Las Vegas. I checked out both demos and talked with company executives about the details. While the basics are similar, there are a lot of small but important differences. Read on for a full breakdown of how these services differ and how well they work. I'll also explain how they differ from competing services from Apple, T-Mobile/SpaceX and AST.
Qualcomm Taps Iridium for Satellite Connectivity
Qualcomm has revealed Snapdragon Satellite, the company's solution for connecting Android phones directly to satellites for truly global coverage. The feature uses the Iridium network, a satellite constellation that has has been in operation for 25 years. As a polar LEO (low-earth orbit) constellation with inter-satellite links, Iridium offers full global coverage, even mid-ocean and in polar regions. The low-bandwidth data channel is designed to support basic 2-way messaging. It works in two specific modes: emergency and "premium". The emergency SOS feature is designed and supported by Qualcomm and Garmin. When a user tries to dial 911 outside of cellular coverage, the phone automatically asks if you'd like to use the satellite messaging feature to contact emergency services. This routes your messages through the same call centers as Garmin's InReach service, which already offers service worldwide. Manufacturers can also implement an SOS button wherever they like in software (or hardware) to trigger the feature. Like Apple's version of this technology, it sometimes (but not always) requires aiming, which the phone automatically guides you through if necessary. However Qualcomm claims several advantages over Apple's solution: it can send much longer messages, and they are sent and received much faster (3 seconds, on average). Users must manually check for new messages to receive them, which is rate-limited to every 30 seconds. Qualcomm expects the emergency feature to be very affordable or possibly even free on some phones. The "premium" service for non-emergency use will cost more. This can either be integrated with SMS or added to a third-party messaging app. It will be up to manufacturers to determine how this feature is implemented and priced. The already-announced Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset includes support for Snapdragon Satellite, (though not all phones with that chip will necessarily support the feature). Iridium uses the L band, which is near 1,600 MHz. This is close enough to GPS/GNSS and cellular mid-band frequencies that it can share one of those existing antennas in a phone, requiring only the most minimal extra radio components to implement. Multiple manufacturers are planning to launch phones with Snapdragon Satellite in the second half of the year.
Bullitt Launches Its Own Two-Way Satellite Messaging Service
Phone maker Bullitt has teamed up with a number of partners to create its own two-way satellite messaging service. An upcoming Motorola Defy-series phone (made by Bullitt) will support the new service and launch in the US soon. Bullitt is offering the service to other manufacturers as well. The Motorola Defy phone will use a MediaTek add-on modem chip that supports NTN (non-terrestrial network) communications. Bullitt is relying on Skylo to provide the satellite service, with is powered by "existing licensed GEO satellite constellations, such as Inmarsat and others." Bullit has created it own messaging app for the service. The app will try using cellular or Wi-Fi networks when available, but fall back to satellite. An emergency SOS service will be free for the first year, and is backed by critical event response specialists FocusPoint International. Subscription plans start at $5/ month for 30 non-emergency messages. SOS messages do not count against the bucket, and shorter messages (including location check-ins) count as fractional messages. When texting other people for non-emergency use, the other person receives a standard text message, but must download a free app to reply and have it relayed by satellite. The app will be available for both Android and iOS. Only the user of the satellite-capable phone is charged for satellite messaging. The service is launching first in the US and Europe, and only provides coverage in launched regions. It reaches far offshore, but not in the middle of the oceans nor polar regions. When in satellite-only coverage, messages via the service are received automatically, unlike some competing solutions. Users should usually not be required to aim the phone to connect to a satellite.
Lenovo ThinkPhone by Motorola Caters to Businesses
Motorola's newest phone is the Lenovo ThinkPhone, a mobile phone designed to appeal to business customers and integrate seamlessly with Lenovo ThinkPad laptops. The ThinkPhone has high-end specs, a durable body, and extensive security features. A full array of connectivity features with ThinkPad laptops includes Instant Connect seamless discovery when nearby, Unified Clipboard, drag-and-drop file sharing, and Instant Hotspot with 5G. Android apps can be opened on the laptop, including launching with one click from Unified Notifications. Advanced Webcam lets you use the phone's 50-megapixel camera for higher-quality online meetings. Other phone specs include a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor, 8–12 GB RAM, 128–512 GB storage, 6-inch FHD+ OLED display, Wi-Fi 6E, and USB 3.1. It has a 5,000 mAh battery, 68-watt fast charging (68W charger included), and wireless charging. It comes with Android 13 and four years of security updates. A secondary rear camera offers 13 megapixels of 120º wide-angle, while the front camera is 32 megapixel. An aircraft-grade aluminum frame, Kevlar-like "lightweight aramid fiber that's stronger than steel", and Gorilla Glass Victus give the phone durability as well as an IP68 rating for proper water resistance. In addition to ThinkShield and advanced enterprise mobile device management, the ThinkPhone comes with Moto KeySafe, "a separate processor ... that adds an additional layer of security to better protect the most sensitive data in the smartphone. It isolates PINs, passwords, and cryptographic keys, storing them in a tamper-resistant environment protecting the data from the inside out." The ThinkPhone will be available to US business customers and unlocked online "in the coming months". Pricing was not announced.
Google Wants Android to Work on Non-Arm Chips
At the RISC-V Summit event, Android's director of engineering Lars Bergstrom announced that Google is working to get Android running on RISC-V chips as a "tier 1" platform. RISC-V is an open chip architecture that offers an alternative to the Arm chip designs that are dominant in mobile devices today. As western countries continue economic hostilities with China, some companies — particularly in China — are looking for alternatives to Arm, which is based in the UK. Bergstrom said the process will take years. However, once complete, most Android apps should run on RISC-V with no changes required by the developer; games could be the most common exception.
Android and Google Devices Now Support Matter
Google has updated its Google Home app and Google Home / Nest devices to fully support Matter, the new industry standard for smart home control. Existing Google home hardware can serve as a Matter hub, including the original Google Home speaker, Google Home Mini, Nest Mini, Nest Audio, Nest Hub (1st and 2nd gen), Nest Hub Max, and Nest Wifi Pro. Matter-enabled smart home devices can connect to your home's Matter network via Wi-Fi or Thread (a low-power standard). Thread devices require a Thread border router; the Nest Wifi Pro, Nest Hub Max and the Nest Hub (2nd gen) can act as a Thread border router. Matter is designed for "Multi-Admin", meaning you can use multiple devices and ecosystems simultaneously to control your home, including both the Google Home and Samsung SmartThings apps. Android's Fast Pair feature also now works for Matter devices, making it faster and easier to set up new smart home devices. Next year, Google will bring Google Home with Matter to iOS. A handful of Matter-enabled devices are already available, "with many more coming in early 2023".
FCC May Mandate Security Updates for Phones
FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington is calling for the FCC to mandate that device manufacturers "explicitly commit to supporting their wireless devices with security updates for a defined period." Phones and other wireless devices that are in active use but no longer receiving security patches represent a national security risk, according to Simington. Some manufacturers have committed to providing security updates for up to five years for their high-end devices, while other companies make no specific promises. New security vulnerabilities are regularly discovered in both new and old versions of Android, iOS, and other OSes. Left unpatched, older devices become susceptible to more and more of these issues over time, providing an open door for malware, spyware, ransomware, and more.
Car Key Sharing Coming to Android
Google Pixel phones now have the ability to share digital car keys via messaging, including with iPhones. Select other phones with Android 12 or later will also get the feature soon.
Sonim's Next Ultra-Rugged Smartphone is Almost Here
Sonim today announced the impending launch of their newest rugged smartphone, the XP10. The XP10 replaces the XP8, adding 5G but in a lighter and "sleeker" design. The phone will launch "with major carriers in the coming weeks". Key features include a removable 5,000 mAh battery, extra-loud 100bB+ speakers, and Android 12. Its rugged credentials include MIL-STD-810H ratings for drops (from six feet directly onto concrete), water immersion (in six feet of water for 60 minutes), and all weather conditions (from -4° F to 131° F). The XP10 can also be "sprayed, submerged and rigorously cleaned in soap and water or with harsh chemicals, like isopropyl alcohol or bleach, to ensure it is fully disinfected." For dangerous work environments, the XP10 is rated Non-Incendive Class I, II and III Div 2. Although Sonim did not announce specific carrier partners, both AT&T and Verizon carried the XP8.
Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Redefines AI in Flagship Phones
Qualcomm has announced its newest top-end chip, intended to power most flagship-level Android phones in 2023. As expected, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is more powerful and power-efficient across the board (compared to Gen 1), but the most impressive improvements and new features involve AI. The chip also makes several architectural changes compared to previous Snapdragon chips. The new Qualcomm AI Engine doubles the size of the Tensor accelerator and has a new, dedicated power delivery system. It also implements INT4 (a first on mobile), an alternative level of precision for AI math, and Micro-Tile Inferencing. These changes result in an AI performance improvement of up to 4.35x, and up to 60% better power efficiency. A new, direct link between the Hexagon AI cores and the Spectra imaging cores enables features such as a Real-time Semantic Segmentation, where the phone can "see" and understand different parts of a scene in real time, allowing different image enhancements to be applied to faces vs. clothes vs. skies, for example. Qualcomm calls this Cognitive ISP. The Sensing Hub now has two AI processors and more memory, for smarter always-on features. The Kryo CPU cores have been shuffled around. An Arm Cortex-X3 at 3.2 GHz serves as the prime core, but there are now four performance cores and three efficiency cores. The performance cores are split between two Arm A715 and two Arm A710, with the latter optimized for legacy 32-bit apps. Overall, Qualcomm says these new CPU cores are 35% faster and 40% more efficient. On the GPU and gaming side, the new Adreno cores are up to 25% faster and more efficient, and support real-time hardware-accelerated raytracing as well as Unreal Engine 5's Metahumans technology. The X70 modem includes AI technology and supports 4-carrier aggregation for downlink speeds of up to 10 Gbps. The onboard FastConnect 7800 system is the first to support Wi-Fi 7 with High Band Simultaneous Multi-Link (for speeds of up to 5.8 Gbps) and latency below 2ms. Updated Snapdragon Sound now supports Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking. Latency has also been reduced to 48ms for better gaming audio. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 will appear in phones shipping before the end of 2022.
November Security Patch Fixes Major Security Hole in Pixel Phones
Google has fixed a serious bug that allowed anyone with physical access to a Pixel phone to bypass the lock screen and access the home screen and all phone data. The exploit required only an extra SIM card to which the attacker knows the PUK (recovery PIN) code. Inserting the extra SIM and entering the PUK code would bypass the lock screen. The bug affected multiple Pixel models, and Android versions 10–13. It is unclear if the bug affects any other Android phones as well. Google has paid the researcher who found the bug $70,000.
Google Messages Gains 2-Way Reactions with iPhones
Google has announced a variety of new features for Messages, its messaging app for Android based on the RCS industry standard.
- In addition to correctly displaying certain emoji reactions from iPhone users over SMS, Messages will now let you send reactions to SMS messages sent by iPhone users, and display them correctly on the Android side.
- Another new feature will you reply to a specific message in an RCS thread, so it's clear what you're replying to in a busy conversation.
- Google will also bring Voice Message Transcription to more phones. Originally announced for the new Pixel 7 series, the feature can present an audio message as text, for situations where it might be difficult or inappropriate to listen to the audio. The feature is coming to the Pixel 6 series as well as the Samsung Galaxy S22 and Galaxy Fold 4.
- The app will now make even more pro-active intelligent suggestions based on your activity. These include birthday and anniversary reminders; prompts to "star" messages that appear to contain important info like addresses, door codes, and phone numbers; and shortcuts to make calls or add things to your calendar when receiving relevant messages.
- You will now be able create your own reminders without leaving the app. "Remind yourself to call Mom on her birthday, or [to] schedule that appointment during regular business hours."
- The app can now play YouTube videos without leaving Messages.
Cricket Doubles Down on White-Label Phones
Cricket has started selling two new Cricket-branded phones: the Cricket Icon 4 and Cricket Innovate E 5G. While Cricket has offered many such white-label phones in the recent years, these additions bring the number of own-brand phones the company now sells to ten, possibly a record number for any US carrier. The Icon 4 is made by Wingtech, while the Innovate E 5G comes via Coosea. Wingtech is new for Cricket, although T-Mobile has relied on Wingtech for its last two generations of REVVL phones. Coosea also makes the Cricket Vision Plus (released in June) and Cricket Debut Smart, which launched just last month. Cricket has also turned to FIH and Tinno for white-label phones in the past. Both new phones are entry-level. The Icon 4 has a 6.5-inch HD+ display, 4,000 mAh battery, 13 megapixel camera, 5 megapixel front camera, and rear fingerprint reader. It has 3 GB RAM and 32 GB of storage, the smallest amounts supported by modern Android. It sells for $110. The Innovate E adds 5G and bumps the memory to 4 / 64 GB. It also adds NFC and the screen is slightly larger at 6.6 inches. But battery, camera, and other major specs are the same. It's very affordable for a 5G phone at just $160. (Cricket's other self-branded 5G phone, the Dream 5G, was originally $190, although the company has now discounted that phone to $100 for existing customers.)
Google Overhauls Android's Parental Controls
Google is revamping Family Link, the system-wide parental controls for a child's Android device. The biggest new feature is the ability to create temporary "Today Only" screen-time settings that override the usual daily settings. Another major new feature is a geofencing function that lets you "turn on notifications to be alerted when your child arrives at or leaves a specific destination like school or soccer practice." The new design is organized into three main tabs: "The Highlights tab shows a snapshot of your child's app usage, screen time and recently installed apps". The Controls tab lets parents "set screen time limits for each device or for specific apps, set content restrictions and manage app data permissions." "On the Location tab, you can see all of your children on the same map with their device location. You’ll also find other useful features like battery life and the ability to ring your child’s device to find it". Finally, a Notifications screen shows "important updates and ... requests from your children for app downloads, purchases and access to blocked websites." The update is rolling out over the next few weeks. The Family Link app for parents is available for both Android and iOS, as well as via the web.
Samsung Reveals One UI 5
Samsung has revealed the design and key features One UI 5, the company's own spin on Android for its Galaxy phones. Besides a design refresh (including an iOS-like lock screen), several key features have been added. Bixby Text Call lets you participate in a phone call by typing text, which the phone converts to audio. The feature is designed for environments where a phone call would be difficult or not allowed, such as a loud concert, theater, or library. One UI 5 also includes a new video wallpaper function. Widgets can now be stacked, enabling fewer, tidier home screens. The software also makes it easy to extract text from images and paste that text elsewhere.
Google Starts Rolling Out Passkey Support on Android
Google has started rolling out support for passkeys for web sites in Android and the Chrome browser. Passkeys are a more-secure and easier-to-use replacement for passwords. Passkeys are stored on your device and securely synced with the cloud. Creating and using them is a simple two-step process of tapping your username and authenticating (via fingerprint, for example). Passkeys can also be used cross-device and cross-platform. "For example, an Android user can now sign in to a passkey-enabled website using Safari on a Mac. Similarly, ... a Chrome user, for example on Windows, can do the same using a passkey stored on their iOS device." Google will enable passkeys for logging into Android apps later this year. The current implementation only works with Google's own password manager, but Google will also enable passkeys for third-party password managers next year.
Google Frags Stadia
Google will shut down its Stadia cloud gaming service on January 18th, 2023. The service launched in 2019, offering high-quality gaming streamed over the internet to any Chrome-capable device, including Android phones. Google will offer full refunds for all Stadia games, add-on content, and even hardware purchased from the Google Store.
Google Maps Putting Search Results in AR Live View
Google has announced an update to the Google Maps app with several interesting new features. The augmented-reality Live View feature now works in a search mode to find and show you specific places nearby, instead of just overlaying walking directions during ongoing navigation. From the main screen, a camera icon will appear in the main search box. Tapping that icon opens the new mode, which starts by showing landmark info overlaid on the real-world view from the phone's camera. It gives a few default search options, such as finding restaurants or ATMs within a five-minute walk. Those search results appear overlaid on the real-world view, with options view more details, such as hours, how busy a place is, and services offered. The feature "starts rolling out in London, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Paris and Tokyo in the coming months on Android and iOS." Google also announced a new "neighborhood vibe" feature that displays a visual guide to local highlights when searching for a neighborhood by name. That feature is also rolling out "in the coming months", but will be available globally.
Google Fi Beefs up International 5G Service
Google Fi has improved the international roaming offered with its plans, and improved overall iPhone compatibility. Google tripled its 5G coverage abroad, bumping the number of countries where users can roam on 5G from 26 to 39. (Full-speed 4G is available in over 200 countries.) Fi's Unlimited Plus plan has no extra roaming charges, so all your 50 GB of monthly full-speed data is available even overseas. Google also extended international 5G service to Samsung phones, instead of just its own Pixel phones. For iPhones, Google added international mobile hotspot and Wi-Fi calling, features that previously only worked with Android phones on Fi. Google Fi plan pricing remains unchanged.
Verizon Supports eSIM Activation via App
Following T-Mobile's announcement that customers of other carriers can switch to T-Mobile quickly and easily using only the T-Mobile app and eSIM technology, Verizon wants to remind people that it offers the same feature within its My Verizon app. Customers of other carriers with a Verizon-approved, unlocked, eSIM-capable phone can download the My Verizon app to set up a new account and activate the phone with Verizon right away, without needing to visiting a store or have a physical SIM card mailed to them. eSIM-capable phones include most recent Apple iPhones and Google Pixels, as well as certain recent Samsung phones. Customers can use either the app (for iOS and Android) or perform the same process via Verizon's BYOD web site.
T-Mobile Switches on eSIM for Easy Switching
T-Mobile has updated its main T-Mobile app to enable customers of other carriers to switch to T-Mobile "in as little as a few minutes." The feature is able to activate the phone on a new T-Mobile line from right within the app, using eSIM technology. eSIM is found in recent Apple iPhones, Google Pixels, and many recent Samsung phones. Optionally, users can use this feature to activate a free three-month trial of T-Mobile's network as a second line, while keeping their existing service on the phone's primary SIM card. The feature is available for both consumer and business customers. The updated T-Mobile app is available now for both iOS and Android.
Wiko Brand Returns to US with the Voix at T-Mobile
T-Mobile has launched the Wiko Voix, a new Android phone that runs just $126. The phone is also launching with Metro by T-Mobile for $120. The last Wiko-branded phones for a US carrier were the Ride series for Boost. Wiko is a brand of Tinno, which has a history of making affordable white-label phones for US carriers, including the AT&T Calypso series and Cricket Icon series. Although Tinno has not traditionally touted its own brand in this part of the world, the company has launched a new US web site. Key specs of the Wiko Voix include Android 12, 6.5-inch HD+ display, 3,400 mAh battery, 13 megapixel camera, rear fingerprint reader, 3 GB RAM, 32 GB storage, and a memory card slot.
Motorola's new Edge Offers a Lot for $500
Motorola has taken the wraps off its new Edge phone for 2022. This is the little sibling to the Edge+, the company's flagship phone. It keeps many of that phone's best features, including a 50 megapixel main camera, large FHD+ OLED display with 144 Hz refresh and HDR10+, 30W fast charging, two-way wireless charging, 5G, Wi-Fi 6E, and NFC. And yet it's half the price at $500. It also represents a big win for Motorola as the first time since 2017 that a Motorola phone this high-end will be offered by all three top-tier US carriers. To achieve the lower price point compared to the Edge+, the new Edge (2022) uses a MediaTek Dimensity 1050 chip, the wide-angle camera is 13 megapixel instead of 50, the selfie camera is 32 megapixel instead of 60, and it drops stylus support. Camera features include 960 fps super-slow-motion and 4K HDR video capture. Its 6.6-inch main display hides an optical fingerprint reader and is protected by Gorilla Glass 3. The rest of the body is plastic, but with a back that looks like matte glass. Motorola boasts that this is one of its thinner and lighter phones, despite having a large 5,000 mAh battery. It supports Ready For, Motorola's unique software for hooking the phone up to large displays and other accessories for big-screen-optimized video streaming, gaming, and productivity apps. It ships with Android 12, but Motorola has improved its software commitment to three full OS upgrades and four years of bi-monthly security updates. It will come in one color: Mineral Gray. T-Mobile will launch it first, "in the coming weeks", offering it with 8 GB RAM and 128 GB storage for $498. Verizon's version will have 8 GB RAM and 256 GB storage, and of course adds mmWave 5G. AT&T will offer its own unique variant with 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage. US Cellular, Spectrum Mobile, and Visible will also offer it. Motorola's unlocked version will have 8 GB RAM and 256 GB storage; it will sell for $500 for a limited time, after which it will run $600. It will be available from Best Buy, Amazon, and Motorola.com.