Google today detailed how families can use their Google account to stay connected and in sync with one another. Google already allows people to share media via Google Play Music, Google Play Movies & TV, and Google Play Books. Moving forward, families can take advantage of Google Calendar, Keep, and Photos to manage appointments, tasks, and libraries. For example, the shared Google Calendar lets families keep track of group plans and other events, while Google Keep makes it possible to capture and share ideas with other family members. Shared albums in Google Photos requires only a few taps to push those weekend snapshots to everyone, while YouTube TV allows up to six people to maintain their own cloud-based DVR for online television shows. Google says the new family tools are rolling out to Google Calendar, Keep, and Photos in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New, Zealand, Russia, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S. starting today. YouTube TV is available in select markets around the U.S. Families, as defined by Google, support up to six members per household.
LeEco today said it will largely erase its corporate presence in the U.S. as it refocuses its efforts here. The company, which exists as the YouTube/Netflix of China, first announced plans enter the U.S. market at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2016. It followed nine moths later with a splashy October 2016 press conference launching phones, TVs, and connected bicycles — all of which were to be sold online directly to consumers. The company expanded too swiftly, ran into cash problems, and scaled back plans earlier this year. "While we’ve made progress in growing our distribution channels, the challenges with raising new capital have made it difficult in the past few months to support all of our business’ priorities," said the company in a statement. Thanks to the cash crunch, LeEco cannot support its U.S. employees and will let up to 70%, or about 325, go. "Our goal is to continue to gain momentum. In the past few months, we have gained a large foothold in Chinese-speaking households in the U.S. by offering tailor-made products and content for this community. We believe this provides us an opportunity to build on our strengths and grow from there." LeEco didn't explicitly say which products it will continue to offer U.S. consumers, nor how swiftly its U.S.-based employees will be let go. Just yesterday, the company's founder stepped down from his CEO role at one of LeEco's major business units.
Facebook today announced two new features for live video that should make it more interactive and social. First, there's Live Chat With Friends. This allows people to invite their friends to a private chat thread that accompanies a public live broadcast. For example, users can begin watching a live video from their favorite artist and invite their Facebook buddies to talk about it in real time. Facebook says people will be able to follow public conversations as well as private chats during live video at the same time, and private chats will continue after the live broadcast ends. The feature is being tested in several countries right now and should become more widely available over the summer months. The second new feature is called Live With. This feature lets people broadcast live video with a guest. "To invite a friend to join you in your live video, simply select a guest from the Live Viewers section, or tap a comment from the viewer you want to invite," explained Facebook in a blog post. "Your viewer can then choose whether or not to join your broadcast. You can go live with a guest in both portrait mode and landscape mode." Facebook thinks this will be a great way for high-profile users (read: celebrities) to interact with regular people and fans. The Live With feature is now available to all users, profiles, and pages.
Instagram today made it easier to find story content in its mobile app based on location or interests/topics. A new story ring now appears at the top of the explore section. Stories that have location stickers applied to them will be added to the ring so people can view myriad stories shared from around the world. Similarly, people can now mark their stories with hashtags, making them searchable to others. Instagram says these stories may be shared with a much larger audience via the explore tab, but users can opt to share their location or hashtagged stories only with followers (rather than everyone). The new searching tools will appear in Instagram 10.22 for Android and iOS, which is rolling out this week.
Snapchat today unveiled a new feature that makes it possible for many people to contribute to the same story. Snapchat calls the new tool custom stories. One person creates the story and then invites others to add their own snaps. The creator can limit the story so only those invited to contribute are allowed to see it. Further, the creator can geofence the story so only people in a specific location can see the story. Snapchat says stories will disappear after 24 hours if no one contributes to them. Snapchat's new collaborative stories are rolling out to Android and iOS devices in a fresh update to the mobile app.
Google recently updated its YouTube TV app for iOS and gave it the ability to push content to the Apple TV. The Android version of the mobile app can cast video to Chromecast-enabled TVs, but Apple TV users were left without a way to connect the gap between their iPhone and television set. The new version of YouTube TV for iOS adds AirPlay, allowing iPhone owners to view YouTube TV programming on their television set through the Apple TV. YouTube TV for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store, but the availability of the service is limited to just a handful of markets for the time being.
Apple today said it has settled its patent complaints against Nokia and the two have signed a multi-year patent license. The two corporations sued one another in December of last year concerning licensing fees for Nokia's patents. Nokia said Apple refused to pay fair prices, while Apple accused Nokia of antitrust behavior. Nokia had sold its patents to patent-assertion firms that then demanded higher rates. Moving forward, Nokia will provide Apple with network infrastructure products and services, and Apple will resume selling Nokia-owned smart devices (Withings) as the two look at future potential digital health offerings. Apple is set to pay Nokia a significant upfront fee and then on-going payments. Both companies expressed positive sentiments in having the matter behind them. "We are pleased with this resolution of our dispute and we look forward to expanding our business relationship with Nokia," said Apple COO Jeff Williams. Companies often use lawsuits as a negotiation tactic.
Samsung has rolled out a simpler and more direct buy-one, get-one offer for the Galaxy S8 smartphone. Under the terms of Samsung's deal, customers must buy two Galaxy S8 handsets for full price and activate at least one on T-Mobile's network via Samsung.com. Samsung will then issue a rebate for up to $750 to cover the cost of one Galaxy S8 within seven to 10 days after the purchase is made. The rebate is applied as a refund directly to the original payment method, excluding taxes, shipping, or other fees. T-Mobile's buy-one, get-one offer, in comparison, requires new/upgrading customers to sign up for its monthly installment plan for both devices and wait up to eight weeks for a rebate card that can be applied to the second device. Samsung's offer lets customers pay off the second phone almost immediately. Moreover, it can be combined with the free entertainment kit offer, which includes the Gear VR with Controller headset and six free months of Netflix.
LG today announced the X venture, an affordable Android smartphone that can take a beating. The phone has an IP68 rating for protection against water and dust, and a mil-spec 810g rating for durability against drops, bumps, scrapes, and other abuse. The phone features a 5.2-inch full HD screen with glove mode. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 435 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. LG says the main camera has a 16-megapixel sensor with a standard field of view, while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with a wide-angle lens. The phone packs a massive 4,100mAh battery with Quick Charge 2.0 for all-day battery life. Other specs include barometer with outdoorsy software, as well as Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, FM radio, and NFC. The phone supports memory cards up to 2 TB and it charges via microUSB. The X venture runs Android 7 Nougat. AT&T plans to sell the LG X venture starting May 26, with support for its ePTT service, for $11 per month for 30 months, or about $330.
Universal Secure Registry, a small firm from Boston, has filed a patent complaint against Apple and Visa over the technology used to create Apple Pay. According to the lawsuit, Kenneth P. Weiss, CEO of Universal Secure Registry, holds 13 patents pertaining to the use of fingerprints and one-time tokens in order to authenticate secure financial transactions. Weiss pitched the technology extensively to Visa in 2010. Visa agreed to a 10-year nondisclosure agreement and even assigned engineers to understand how Universal Secure Registry's process worked. Visa never adopted the technology, but several years later worked with Apple, MasterCard, and American Express to create Apple Pay, which launched in 2014. Apple Pay relies on fingerprints and one-time tokens to facilitate iPhone-based mobile payments. Patent law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan — one that represented Samsung and its fight against Apple over Android patents — suggested Universal Secure Registry take Apple to court over the patented technology. Apple has not yet responded publicly to the lawsuit.
Jia Yueting, who founded China's LeEco, is cutting back on his responsibilities in order to help the company better focus on products. Specifically, Jia has stepped down as the CEO of Leshi, LeEco's main business unit. He remains the chairman and CEO of LeEco. Leshi is the part of the company that provides internet and video services in China. It is the core of the firm. LeEco later spread to TVs, smartphones, electric cars, and other connected products. These businesses sapped LeEco's finances and caused a cash crunch that eventually saw LeEco scale back its expansion plans. Former Lenovo executive Liang Jun will take Jia's place at the helm of Leshi. At the same time, Leshi's CFO, Yang Linjie, will be replaced by Zhang Wei. Jia gave the change a positive spin, suggesting that he'll be able to provide the proper amount of guidance to the business units he now governs. LeEco sold several phones directly to U.S. consumers online, including Le Pro3.
Google I/O, the search company's annual developer conference, is wrapping up after a whirlwind few days in Mountain View, Calif. Google hit attendees with a blitz of announcements centered around artificial intelligence, machine learning, and mobility. While much of what Google showed off is meant for its developer partners, plenty will reach consumers in the days, weeks, and months ahead — not only on Android devices, but iOS, the web, your car, your wrist, your headset, and more.
Google today distributed a bug-fixing update to the Android O beta. The small patch, weighing it at about 55 MB, is meant to smooth out some performance issues present in the initial build. People enrolled in the Android Beta program should see the fresh update hit their devices shortly. The Android O beta works on the Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 6P, and Nexus 5X.
DxO and OnePlus today said they're developing the camera of the OnePlus 5 smartphone together. OnePlus has indicated that the OnePlus 5, which will be the successor to last year's OnePlus 3T flagship, will arrive in the months ahead. OnePlus hasn't shared any real details about the phone, such as the screen size, processor, or camera resolution. OnePlus doesn't have a carrier distribution deal in the U.S., but it does sell its phones directly to consumers online.
Google this week rolled out the Google Payment API, a new set of capabilities that will allow anyone to make in-app or online payments with any debit or credit card associated with their Google account. Google says this option will simplify the process for people to checkout and make purchases online, as it negates the need to fill out cumbersome purchasing forms. Moreover, the API will make it possible for people to send or receive payments via the Google Assistant. Whether the Assistant is accessed through a smartphone or Google Home, users can say, "Ok Google, send $10 for Jane for pizza" and Google will do exactly that. A separate payment tool for developers, called the Card Linked Offers API, smoothes over the process of supporting loyalty cards and programs. It gives developers a new channel for interacting with customers and rolling out targeted offers. From a consumer standpoint, it will be far easier to add loyalty cards to Android Pay once developers update their app with the Card Linked Offers API. Google expects these capabilities to roll out later this year.
Google today announced a new version of its Complications API for developers in order to help them create better experiences for Android Wear. Complications are dynamic data sets that appear on watch faces, such as step counts, notifications, weather alerts, and similar. Specifically, the refreshed API can now auto-size text to fit in bounds defined by watch face makers and it includes a full rendering tool to handle style and layout factors for complications. The API adds more sample code that developers can cut-and-paste into their apps, as well as a new test suite for checking that watch faces can handle all the fields and complications together. The new Complications API is for Android Wear 2.0 and up. Google released the second-generation wearable platform earlier this year. Google also said it is offering developers a new Wear UI library for handling user interfaces. Notably, Google is killing off the card pattern and multi-directional UIs for Android Wear devices. This change will occur over time.
Google this week released the first public beta of Android O, the next version of its core mobile platform. Android O has a handful of interesting new features, including picture-in-picture, notification dots, autofill for app logins, easy text selection, and much more. Android O may not be huge on hallmark additions to the platform, but it shows an excellent level of refinement from Google. We downloaded the Android O beta and took it for a quick spin. Here are our first impressions of this super early build of Android O.
Verizon Wireless will be the first U.S. carrier to offer a Project Tango smartphone to its customers. The forthcoming Asus ZenFone AR will arrive later this summer, according to Google executive Johnny Lee. The ZenFone AR is significantly smaller than the first Project Tango handset, which was the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro. The ZenFone AR will also be compatible with Google's Daydream virtual reality platform. Asus first announced the ZenFone AR in January. It sports a 5.7-inch WQHD AMOLED display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a vapor cooling system. Triple cameras on the back support Tango applications with a 23-megapixel main camera, depth camera, and motion tracking camera. Other features include NFC, memory card slot, USB-C port, 3.5mm audio jack, and Cat 12 LTE. The 3,300 mAh battery supports Quick Charge 3.0. The exact availability is not yet known.
The FCC today voted down party lines to begin the process of undoing the Title II designation that governs net neutrality. "The FCC is proposing to return to a regulatory framework that preserved a free and open internet for almost 20 years," said the agency on its Twitter feed. The previous FCC Commissioner, Tom Wheeler, installed the Title II designation and bright-line rules in 2015 in order to protect consumers from onerous business practices. Current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has long derided the decision and stated early in his tenure his intent to walk back the regulations. Today's vote doesn't immediately strip Title II from net neutrality, but it puts the ball in motion. The FCC wants to return to the Commission’s original classification of mobile broadband internet access service as a private mobile service, rather than a utility. The FCC intends to "eliminate the catch-all internet conduct standard created by the Title II Order. Because the Internet conduct standard is extremely vague and expansive, ISPs must guess at what they are permitted to do. Eliminating the Internet conduct standard is therefore expected to promote innovation and network investment by eliminating regulatory uncertainty." Last, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks comment on the idea of eliminating the bright-line rules that define what mobile broadband providers can and cannot do, such as throttling, and paid prioritization schemes.
Google today said it plans to bring full virtual reality support to its Chrome browser for Android handsets. With Chrome VR, people will be able to experience full web sites in virtual reality, watch web-based videos in virtual reality, and interact with web sites through their VR headset. Google suggests that Chrome VR can pair with augmented reality tools when, for example, shopping for furniture in order to help define whether or not things will fit in your house. A new version of Chromium is available to developers from GitHub so web writers can get started in creating VR experiences for the web. Google didn't say when it expects to offer a final version of Chrome VR to the general public.
Google today said it is updating YouTube VR with the ability for multiple people to watch and share experiences at the same time. The new tools will make it possible for those with their own headsets to do what Google calls co-watching. People will be able to enjoy the content and discuss it in real time, even when viewing from separate locations. Google is working with its content producers to create more VR content for YouTube, all of which will be accessible in the new Daydream 2.0 Euphrates platform.
Google today provided some insight on its Daydream virtual reality platform and says a new version of Daydream will soon make its debut. Daydream 2.0 Euphrates targets standalone VR headsets and is powered by Android O. The entire experience is handled in virtual reality. Daydream 2.0 updates the home experience for standalone headsets and smartphones. Euphrates includes a new dashboard that will appear on top of any app and lets people remain in VR even when checking settings, reading notifications, and multitasking. Euphrates also adds Google Cast support, allowing people to pick a destination and cast from Daydream to other devices such as television sets. Daydream 2.0 makes it possible to capture screenshots and then share them via social networks. Google said there are eight Daydream compatible handsets right now, and it expects that number to increase significantly by the end of the year thanks to new entries from LG, Motorola, Asus, and others. Google believes tens of millions of Daydream devices will be in the market by the end of the year.
Facebook today said it is simplifying the main screen of Facebook Messenger, returning the app's focus to messaging. Facebook has over the last year added numerous features to the messaging tool and the app's usability has suffered somewhat as a result. The app introduces tabs along the top for all the different actions and features, rather than cramming them in small slots on the home screen. The tabs will also show users which of their friends are available for conversations, as well as a dedicated place to host group conversations. The bottom bar now offers shortcuts for making calls, taking pictures, searching or people, playing games, and, later, exploring the forthcoming discover tab. Last, Messenger includes a red dot to help people see what's new. "These changes are designed to make Messenger simpler for you — to help you get to your contacts quickly, jump into your conversations where you left off, start new chats, and stay up to date," said Facebook's David Marcus. The new Messenger is hitting Android and iOS devices this week.
Cricket Wireless today said it, too, will sell the LG Stylo 3 beginning May 19. A CDMA version is already available from Sprint and Boost, and a slightly higher-end Stylo 3 Plus is available from T-Mobile. The Stylo 3 has a 5.7-inch 720p HD screen, 13-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel front camera, and fingerprint reader. The phone includes LG's stylus and dedicated pen software. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat. Cricket Wireless has priced the LG Stylo 3 at $170.
Android O replaces the squishy emoji blobs that have long been a part of Google's stock operating system with more traditional, circular emoji. Many of Google's handset partners include their own emoji on Android phones, but the clean version of Android that runs on Pixel and Nexus devices includes the blob-style emoji. Android O puts the basic design and shape of the emoji in line with what other companies offer. The redesigned emoji are included in the new Android O beta release that Google made available earlier today.
Google today updated its Android Device Manager application. The app has a fresh design and, more importantly, a new name. Moving forward the app is called Find My Device. As before, it's a tool to help people find, lock, or erase lost or stolen Android devices. Some of the new features include the ability to check the lost device's wifi and battery status, as well as view the last known location in the event the phone has lost power or been turned off. Find My Device is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today made its instant apps tool available to all developers. Google first announced instant apps at its I/O developer conference in 2016. Instant apps can run in the browser via search results even when not installed on users' phones. The idea is to improve the visibility of apps, allow people to test them, and encourage more app downloads. Only a few developers have had access to instant apps since last year. Now, any developer can create instant versions of the apps. Google said it will take most developers about four or five weeks to modify their apps to run in the instant format. It will be up to app creators to use this tool before instant apps begin to appear in search results.
Google today made the first public beta version of Android O available for download. The updated operating system is available to the Google Pixel, Pixel XL, and Pixel C, and the Nexus 6P, 5X, and Nexus Player. In order to access the beta, people will need to register via the Android.com web site. The beta is open to anyone. Some of the hallmark features of Android O include picture-in-picture, improved security, quick app loads, autofill, better power management, and more. Google warns that this initial public beta may not be stable enough for everyday use. Google expects to release the final version of Android O later this summer.
Project Tango, Google's augmented reality platform, gains a new virtual position system that can locate phones indoors. Google envisions it as a helpful tool in retail and similar environments, helping people navigate stores to find items. For example, Google is working with Lowe's stores as well as a handful of museums to bring VPS to real-world locations. Google thinks it might be particularly helpful for the visually impaired. Further, Google says a new Project Tango augmented reality handset from Asus will debut later this year. Asus didn't provide details about the new handset, which is called the ZenFone AR.
Google today said Samsung will update the Galaxy S8 and S8+ handsets later this summer in order to make them compatible with Google's Daydream virtual reality platform. Daydream is Google's year-old VR service that runs on select handsets. It includes a dedicated VR headset. Google also mentioned that a forthcoming flagship handset from LG will be Daydream compatible. Google is working with partners such as Qualcomm, HTC, Lenovo, and others to create more standalone Daydream headsets that should arrive later this year.
Google today introduced Android Go, a lite version of Android meant for the most basic hardware in environments where mobile data is expensive. For example, it does things such as save mobile data in Chrome by default. It includes a new version of YouTube called YouTube Go. It compresses videos to cut down on data usage, but also allows people to download videos over wifi for offline viewing. The Google Play Store will soon include recommendations for "lite" versions of apps that are designed to run on low-cost devices. Android Go will target all devices with 1 GB of RAM or less, and each version of Android moving forward will include an Android Go release. Google expects to see the first Android Go devices reach the market later this year.
Google today provided more details about the next version of Android at its I/O developer conference. One of the biggest additions to the platform is picture-in-picture for mobile phones. It works with apps such as YouTube and video calls and allows people to minimize the video in a small window while opening and using other apps. Notification dots are a simpler way for people to manage incoming notifications. Another tool headed to Android O is called autofill. It works with most third-party applications and eases the process of filling login details. Another function improves text selection, Android O will automatically select phone numbers, addresses, and business names or titles with a single tap. TensorFlow Lite, a new developer tool, will let developers create more powerful applications for the latest hardware. Google is investing in what it calls vital tools in Android O. For example, Google is using machine learning to scan 50 billion apps every day to ensure they are secure. Google Play Protect will scan apps installed to devices automatically. Google improved app boot times for Android O. Google says the Pixel, for example, will load apps twice as fast with Android O. Wise limits put boundaries on app usage to free up memory and protect battery life. Play Console Dashboards, a tool for developers, will give app writers far more insight into their apps' performance, including crash reports, CPU usage, and power consumption. Last, Google added the Kotlin developer language to the Android platform. This lets developers rely on Kotlin rather than Android Studio to create their applications. Google said Android O will arrive for end users later this summer. Developers can download a beta build of Android O beginning today.
Google today made it easier to share photos with others. The new suggested sharing tool relies on machine learning to recognize faces in photos and match them with known contacts. The app will automatically select the best shots from events/locations and offer personalized sharing suggestions to family and friends. The app can, for example, eliminate duplicates and select images that are in focus and then instantly push them to those in the photos. Google Photos can share albums and images with anyone, no Google Photos account required. Google Photos is adding a shared libraries feature, as well, allowing people to share and contribute to specific libraries. Photos added to shared libraries will instantly appear on all devices/accounts linked to the library. Last, Google added a tool called Photo Books to Google Photos, which lets people create photo albums that can then be printed in soft- or hard-covered albums. The tool can automatically pick the best shots among those selected, lay them out instantly, and then print and ship the album. Google said these features will reach Android, iOS, and the web in the coming weeks.
Google today said its Google Home device can now make free voice calls to landline and mobile phones in the U.S. and Canada. There are no apps, set-up, or apps required. Google Home owners simply need to ask the Assistant to call anyone in their contact list. The tool is smart enough to discern between six users and their individual accounts by their sound of their voice. By default it will dial out from a private number, but users can configure it to display their own number for outgoing calls. Google Home is also adding support for Spotify for music streaming, and will soon support Bluetooth for streaming from any Android and iOS device. Home is gaining more compatibility with Chromecast, too, and can display information requests on connected TVs. These updates are expected to reach Google Home over the coming months.
Google today announced Google Assistant for the iPhone. The app can respond to voice input and take action for a wide variety of tasks. It can supplant Siri on the iPhone to read emails, send messages, perform searches, and open/use applications. Google didn't say exactly when Google Assistant for the iPhone will be available.
Google today announced Google Lens, an image-recognition tool that relies on mobile cameras to perform searches. The tool is a significant advancement to the old Google Image Search app. Google says its neural networks are better than humans at recognizing objects. Using Google Lens, people can aim their camera at just about anything and Google will instantly perform a search and suggest results. For example, users can point their camera at a restaurant and immediately see the Google Search results for that restaurant, including reviews, hours, and location details. It can recognize object such as flowers, and much more. Google didn't say when Google Lens will be available.
Google today said Gmail will soon support smart replies, or automatic responses to emails. The tool is being carried over from Google's Allo messaging application. When people open emails, Gmail will now suggest several canned responses to the message that people can tap to send instantly. Google didn't say exactly when the new feature will reach the mobile app.
Apple this week released a new beta build of iOS 10 for developers. iOS 10.3.3, which developers can download over the air, is a minor, bug-fixing release. Apple didn't provide any details about what's contained in the new code, nor has it released a version for public beta testers yet. Earlier this week, Apple released a final build of iOS 10.3.2, which was also a maintenance release.
Qualcomm is targeting companies that manufacture Apple products in an attempt to recover royalty payments. Qualcomm sued Foxconn, Pegatron, Wistron, and Compal Electronics seeking patent fees. Apple is withholding about $1 billion in royalties from Qualcomm after it sued the company in January for overcharging for patents and technology licenses. The move is just the latest in a series of legal maneuvers between the two companies. "While not disputing their contractual obligations to pay for the use of Qualcomm's inventions, the manufacturers say they must follow Apple's instructions not to pay," said Qualcomm in a statement. Apple said it will support its suppliers until the dispute with Qualcomm is resolved. Qualcomm is being sued by the FTC, Apple, and other companies over its patent-licensing practices. The FTC says Qualcomm's business practices may violate antitrust laws.
Verizon Wireless has cancelled plans to sell the LG Watch Sport wearable. The device, announced earlier this year, was meant to reach Verizon's network this spring with LTE support. Verizon did not say why it chose to drop the device, though it is offering those who preordered the smartwatch $100 off other connected wearables. The Watch Sport is a circular, fitness-focused smartwatch that can track workouts and health data, such as distance covered and heart rate. It is still available from AT&T. Verizon is focusing on the Watch24 wearable, which is Verizon-branded smartwatch running Android Wear 2.0.
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