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printed August 22, 2017
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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 Details Final Release of Android 8.0 Oreo

Yesterday, 3:37 PM   by Rich Brome

Google today announced the final release of Android 8.0, and also named this version "Oreo". Members of the Android Beta program will receive an update to the final version today. Nexus and Pixel users will receive the update "rolling out in phases over the next several weeks". Google has been working with all of its partners to enable updates for other phones. In the coming weeks and months, other manufacturers will roll out the update to many recent phones. By the end of the year, phones from Essential, Huawei, HTC, Kyocera, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sharp and Sony will have Android 8.0 Oreo. The update includes some minor new features, such as picture-in-picture and improved auto-fill, plus many important improvements for developers and overall performance.

Android 8.0 Will be Named "Oreo"

Yesterday, 1:51 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Yesterday, 1:55 PM

Google today announced that "Oreo" will be the full name of Android version 8. Google has made a tradition of giving each major version of the OS an official nickname, in alphabetical order. The previous three versions were named Lollipop, Marshmallow, and Nougat. Before that was KitKat, the last time a trademarked brand name was used. Android 8.0 "Oreo" was announced earlier this year and has been available in beta since May. It's expected to be available to the public soon.

Google Search Results On Android Now Include Video Previews

Friday, 4:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is rolling out short video previews in search results. The videos will be lined up in a carousel located high in the results list. Users can slide the carousel back and forth to choose which videos to watch. For now, the short previews will only play when you're on a WiFi network. Users can choose to enable video previews on mobile networks if they wish, or opt out of video previews all together. Google believes giving video results higher priority in search will help people find certain types of information faster, particularly "how-to" and similar queries. Video previews are slowly hitting the Google app for Android and Chrome on Android starting today, with a wider rollout planned for next week.

Google Syncs Android O Reveal with Solar Eclipse

Friday, 10:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google plans to reveal the name of Android 8 on August 21. The company has timed the revelation with the total solar eclipse that will occur in North America on that day. Google has so far only indicated that Android 8 will start with the letter "O" and guesses range far and wide as to what the name will be. Google typically names major Android versions after desserts, such as Nougat, Marshmallow, and Lollipop. Some believe the new version of Android will be called Oreo, while others think it will be Orangina or Oatmeal. Google released a penultimate version of Android O through its developer channel earlier this summer and is expected to release the final version of the operating system when the name is revealed next week. As per the norm, Google-branded Nexus and Pixel devices will be the first to receive the new operating system. Google will make the announcement at 2:40pm Eastern Time.

Instagram Adds Photo Replies and Face Filters

Aug 17, 2017, 11:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram has rolled out several new ways to interact with friends on the photo-sharing social network. First, Instagram made it possible to reply with a photo or video to specific photos, videos, and reshared posts in the Direct messages feature. The reply tool automatically includes a snapshot of the original photo and overlays it on the reply. It also supports split-screen replies, allowing people to mix up their own selfie response with the original image. Editing tools let users add graphics, text, and doodles on the replies, as well. Instagram also released a new set of customizable face filters that target fashion from the 1960s. Using the filters, users can tap the accessories to explore different hats, glasses, and outfits and mix and match them however they wish. The new face filter is accessible via a new face button that appears in the lower corner of the camera. Both the photo reply and face filter tools are rolling out in the latest version of Instagram for Android and iOS devices.

HMD Global Intros Nokia 8 Flagship Smartphone

Aug 16, 2017, 2:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

HMD Global, the sole licensee of the Nokia brand, today announced the Nokia 8 flagship Android smartphone. The handset is milled from 6000 series aluminum and polished to a high-gloss finish in black, blue, silver, and copper. The Nokia 8 boasts a 5.3-inch quad HD screen with curved Gorilla Glass 5, and it is powered by a Snapdragon 835 processor with 4 or 6 GB of RAM, and 64 or 128 GB of storage (depending on color selection.) All versions support microSD memory cards up to 128 GB. Like many modern flagships, the Nokia 8 adopts a dual-camera configuration with two 13-megapixel cameras on the rear with LED flash. One camera captures full color images and the other captures monochrome images along with depth and contrast information. Both feature Zeiss optics. The front camera has a 13-megapixel sensor, too, with a display-based flash. All three cameras have f/2.0 lenses. The Nokia 8 includes software that allows people to shoot photos and/or video with both the front and rear cameras at the same time. Other specs include a 3.090mAh battery, Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi, NFC, and Cat 9 LTE. The phone runs Android 7.1 Nougat and costs $700. HMD Global didn't immediately specify where the Nokia 8 will be sold.

Google Brings Q&A Feature to Maps and Search

Aug 16, 2017, 12:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is adding a question-and-answer tool to Google Maps and Google Search for Android devices. Users need only search for and open business listings within Maps or Search to see the Q&A feature, which taps into data provided by Google Local Guides and others. Google says existing answers will be visible first, but people can ask (or answer) their own questions. Questions posed by users may be answered by the community at large or the business owner in particular. Google suggests business owners post their own FAQs and/or answers to common questions that might concern hours, accessibility, and so on. Google says the new Q&A feature is rolling out on Maps and Search for Android worldwide.

Google Improves Collaborative Tools In Docs, Sheets, Slides

Aug 16, 2017, 12:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a significant update to its G Suite productivity apps, including Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets. Specifically, the apps gain new powers for collaborating with others. First, users can now save version numbers of documents in order to keep track of their progression from initial draft to final. Users can also preview what the clean version of the document will look like, as well as accept or reject all suggested changes at once. When it comes to mobile devices, Docs, Sheets, and Slides now allow Android and iOS users to suggest changes from their phone or tablet. Google says new templates should help speed up the process of creating documents and spreadsheets, and users can now create their own templates with the proper add-ons. Last, enterprise and education users gain access to a new cloud search tool that integrates across G Suite properties, including Drive, Gmail, Calendar, and others. The new features are rolling out over the next few weeks.

FCC Docs Point to HTC-Made Pixel Phone with 'Active Edge'

Aug 16, 2017, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 16, 2017, 9:27 AM

The FCC recently approved a handset made by HTC that could be the next Pixel smartphone from Google. HTC manufactured last year's Pixel and Pixel XL handsets for Google. The FCC confirms that the new model in question, G011A, includes LTE support for all four major U.S. carriers via bands 2, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 17, 25, 26, 30, 41, and 66. The phone supports CDMA BC 0/1/10, providing full support for Sprint voice service. The FCC also confirms that the phone will have Bluetooth, GPS, and dual-band WiFi. Some sample screenshots provided by HTC for the phone's FCC e-label provide a few more details about the device. The G011A runs Android 8.0.1. Google-branded handsets, including the Nexus series and Pixel series, will be the first to run Android 8, suggesting the G011A could be a Pixel. According to these same screen shots, the device runs a baseband radio (Qualcomm part MW8998) that would only be paired with the Snapdragon 835 processor (Qualcomm part MSM8998). The wide LTE band support and potential Snapdragon 835 processor earmark the G011A as a flagship handset of some sort. Last, the screenshots from HTC reference something called "Active Edge" that can be used to "squeeze for your Assistant." The Active Edge sounds a lot like the Edge Sense that HTC pioneered on the U11 smartphone from earlier this year. On the G011A, Active Edge may activate the Google Assistant. Neither HTC nor Google has confirmed any aspect of the G011A or 2017 Pixel.

Decorating with the Asus ZenFone AR

Aug 15, 2017, 2:24 PM   by Rich Brome

The Asus ZenFone AR for Verizon is the first phone in the U.S. to support Google Tango, the advanced AR (augmented reality) platform for Android. It supports a small variety of apps so far. The most useful so far are online shopping apps that display virtual items for sale (such as furniture, decorations, fixtures, and appliances) in the room you're currently it. We take it for a spin by decorating a dingy subway station. Check out the full video to see Tango in action.

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Instagram Ties Comments Into Threads

Aug 15, 2017, 12:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram hopes threaded conversations will improve the experience of commenting on photos, videos, and other posts. Moving forward, replying to a specific comment will line up the response directly under that comment in an on-going thread. Instagram believes this new layout will make it easier to respond to and keep track of conversations as they unfold. The new threaded commenting behavior is being rolled out globally via Instagram v.24 to both Android and iOS devices over the coming weeks.

Facebook Tweaks News Feed Yet Again, Also Adjusts Camera Behaviors

Aug 15, 2017, 12:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today announced several forthcoming changes to the central news feed design that should make it easier for people to tell what's going on. For example, conversation threads will more clearly show who is replying to whom. Facebook plans to adjust contrast, increase link previews, update icons and buttons, and reshape profile photos to improve readability of posts and conversations. Moreover, links will more prominently reveal where they lead before they're clicked, and it should be simpler to see whose post you're commenting on, reading, or reacting to. Last, a larger, more prominent "back" button should make it easier to return to the news feed once you've finished reading posts. Facebook says these changes will reach all users over the next few weeks. Separately, Facebook today improved the feature set of the Facebook Camera for Stories, which can now be used to instantly go live, create 2-second looping GIFs, or create full-screen text posts with colored backgrounds. All three of these new capture styles create content that can be posted directly to the news feed or other users' walls. Facebook says the new camera features are headed to the Android and iOS platforms beginning today.

Google's Allo Messaging App Lands On the Web, Sort Of

Aug 15, 2017, 12:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today brought its assistant-backed Allo messaging application to the web. Allo on the web requires Google's Chrome browser and can only interact with Allo on Android smartphones for now (iPhone support is coming later.) Google says Allo web access requires the latest version of the mobile Allo app on your handset in order to function. The setup process includes a unique, scannable QR code to link the phone and web accounts. There are some limitations. For example, Google says Allo for web only displays what's in the mobile app, meaning if the phone runs out of battery or the user quits the app, the web client will cease to work or show conversations. Moreover, a significant number of features are not available on the web at all, such as adding/removing group members, notification/privacy settings, and select chat tools including taking photos, deleting conversations, and blocking contacts. These limitations aside, the web version of Allo allows Android device owners to send messages to one another from their web browser. Allo is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Trending Stories Make a Comeback on Facebook Mobile

Aug 15, 2017, 8:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook has brought the trending news section back to mobile devices, starting with the iPhone. Now, trending stories are visible in the main navigation drawer on mobile devices. Opening the section reveals a list of articles that is easy to browse. According to Facebook, articles highlighted in the trending stories section are the most popular on Facebook concerning that specific topic. Popularity is determined by a number of factors, including likes, shares, and number of comments. Facebook was forced to re-conceive trending stories after the section was filled with clickbait and other questionable content. Trending stories are available within the Facebook mobile app for iOS and will soon appear on Android.

Google Contacts App Works On All Android Phones Lollipop and Up

Aug 15, 2017, 8:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google this week made its Contacts application available to Android devices other than the Nexus and Pixel lines. Moving forward, any phone running Android 5.0 Lollipop and up can download and use Google Contacts. The app relies on Google's Material Design and makes it easy to merge duplicate contacts directly on your phone. It also provides automatic suggestions for adding info to your existing contacts. Google Contacts is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Opera Discontinues 'Max' Data-Saving Service

Aug 14, 2017, 1:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Opera Software today said it has pulled Opera Max from the Google Play Store and will no longer update the service. Opera debuted Max in 2014 as a way for Android device users to manage and control their mobile data use. "The product had a substantially different value proposition than our browser products, and represented a different focus for Opera," explained the company in a blog post. Opera said Max will remain up and running for existing users for a while longer, but Max will eventually be shuttered entirely. Opera will inform users before it fully discontinues the service.

Voice Typing in Google Search, GBoard for Android Gains 30 New Languages

Aug 14, 2017, 8:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 14, 2017, 8:28 AM

Google today updated its Google Search and GBoard applications for Android devices and expanded the number of languages supported in voice typing by 30. Google said it worked with native speakers of these languages from around the world to build the needed speech sample data. In this round of additions, Google targeted African, Indian, and other Asia-Pacific dialects to help those who are coming online perhaps for the first time. Some of the bigger additions include Amharic and Swahili in Africa; Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, and Telugu in India; Javanese and Sundanese in Indonesia; as well as Armenian, Azerbaijani, Georgian, Khmer, Lao, Latvian, Nepali, Sinhala, Tamil, and Urdu. Google says these same languages have been added to the Google Speech API, so developers can add support for them to their own apps. Further, Google will soon support voice dictation for these languages within Google Translate. Separately, English speakers in the U.S. can now use voice dictation to find and insert emoji into text. People can utter phrases like "winky face emoji" and GBoard for Android will find the proper emoji and drop it in. Google says it will add voice-dictated emoji support to more languages soon. GBoard is free to download from the Google Play Store.

ZTE Blade Z Max Brings 6-Inch Display to MetroPCS for $129

Aug 14, 2017, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE and MetroPCS today announced the Blade Z Max, a successor to last year's Z Max smartphone. ZTE is making greater use of its Blade branding on value handsets in the U.S., which is why the new phone adds "Blade" to its name. The phone relies on a metal frame and flatter rear panel that is coated with a honeycomb rubber texture for added grip. The Blade Z Max carries over the 6-inch full HD screen with 2.5D Dragontrail Glass of last year's phone, but doubles up on the cameras. The Blade Z Max has a 16-megapixel main rear camera with a secondary 2-megepixel camera to help with focus and contrast as well as create bokeh and monochrome shots. The phone includes an 8-megapixel selfie camera on front. The Blade Z Max is powered by a 1.4 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 435 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, and it supports memory cards up to 128 GB. ZTE says the phone's massive 4,080mAh battery supports up to 31 hours of talk time, and Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 for swifter refills. Other specs include a rear-mounted fingerprint reader, support for VoLTE and HD Voice, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, and USB Type-C. The ZTE Blade Z Max runs Android 7.1 Nougat and will go on sale at MetroPCS stores August 28 for $129.

Samsung Makes Its Internet Browser Available to Most Android Phones

Aug 11, 2017, 7:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has made a version of its mobile browser available to non-Samsung handsets. The company has been beta testing Samsung Internet Browser on Nexus and Pixel phones since April. The latest build, v6 Beta, is compatible with all Android devices running version 5.0 Lollipop and up. Samsung says its browser can sync bookmarks with Chrome on desktop machines, or other machines via the Samsung Cloud. The Samsung browser also includes content blockers, high-contrast mode, CSS Grid (for control over certain layouts), and the latest Chromium engine. Advanced users might take advantage of several beta features, including WebVR, web-based Bluetooth, WebGL 2, and Gamepad extensions. The Samsung Internet Browser Beta can be downloaded directly from the Google Play Store.

T-Mobile Announces Branded Revvl Smartphone

Aug 9, 2017, 12:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 9, 2017, 1:58 PM

T-Mobile today announced the T-Mobile Revvl, a big-screened smartphone that boasts a sharp design, fingerprint reader, and low price point. The phone is made of plastic. The Revvl includes a 5.5-inch HD screen, 3,000mAh battery, and a 13-/5-megapixel camera setup with a rear-mounted flash and face detection. The phone ships with a 1.5 GHz MediaTek MT6738 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage, with support for microSD memory cards up to 128 GB. Other specs include LTE in Bands 2, 4, 5, 12, and 66 with support for VoLTE and HD Voice; Bluetooth 4.2; and 802.11b,g,n WiFi with WiFi calling. The T-Mobile Revvl runs Android 7 Nougat and will be available starting August 10. The phone costs $5 per month on a payment plan with nothing down. The full retail price is $125.

Facebook Offs Its Lifestage and Groups Apps

Aug 9, 2017, 11:01 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook this week has done away with two separate apps, Lifestage and Groups. The Lifestage app, launched less than 12 months ago, was aimed at teens. Facebook hoped it would gain usage among Snapchat fans, but it never truly took off. The Groups app was available to Android and iOS devices and was meant to help manage group activities. Facebook decided, after digesting user feedback about that app, that it simply wasn't a good stand-alone offering. Facebook says registered users will no longer be able to log into their app starting September 1. Facebook is encouraging Groups users to take advantage of the same tools, which are baked into the full Facebook mobile app.

YouTube Mobile App Gains In-App Sharing and Chatting

Aug 7, 2017, 12:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 7, 2017, 12:37 PM

Google today updated its YouTube mobile application and made the process of sharing videos far simpler. Moving forward, people can share videos directly with one another within the YouTube app itself. Shared videos appear in a new tab in the app, bypassing third-party apps entirely. Further, senders and recipients of shared videos can discuss them in the new chat feature that is part of the shared tab. Google says people can respond with videos of their own, as well as invite others to join the conversation. Users will still be able to share videos through third-party apps (Facebook, messages, etc.) if they wish. The new feature, which Google has been testing in select markets since last year, is available in the YouTube mobile app for Android and iOS. YouTube is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.

Google Drops August Security Patches for Android

Aug 7, 2017, 12:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made its monthly security patches available to select Android devices. This month's patches plug a significant number of security holes that threaten most Android devices. Google found dozens of vulnerabilities, including a number of which classified as critical, or able to remotely execute code. Some of problems are related to specific hardware and the associated software drivers that control them. Google is pushing two separate patches to cover these vulnerabilities, one dated August 1 and the second dated August 5. As always, Google is delivering the patches directly to its own Nexus- and Pixel-branded devices first. Google has already posted factory images for download from its web site. Google's handsets will receive both patches in a single download. As far as Google is aware, none of these security holes have been exploited by hackers or other entities. Google has already given the patches to its device-maker partners. Phone manufacturers are responsible for updating their own smartphones with the patches.

Latest Build of Android Messages Adds 'Mark As Read' Tool

Aug 4, 2017, 11:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has pushed out a minor update to the Android Messages application and given it a useful new feature. Now, users can opt to mark messages as read directly from the notification shade. Prior to this change, people had to open the message within the app itself to mark it as read. The app is also now compatible with Android O, including Android O functions such as notification channels. Android Messages 2.3.x is free to download from the Google Play Store.

FCC Reveals the Alcatel Idol 5

Aug 2, 2017, 6:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Documents recently published to the FCC web site show what is likely the Alcatel Idol 5, which has not yet been formally announced by TCL. A device with the model name 6058 was cleared by the FCC for operation in the U.S. The model number is very close to that of the Alcatel Idol 5S, which is the 6060. Further, the draft user manual included in the FCC documents refers to the device as the Idol 5. The photos clearly show a semi-premium device with glass panels and a metal frame, and the Idol brand is etched into the phone casing. A camera, flash, and fingerprint sensor are located on the rear of the phone, while a user-facing camera is plainly visible on front. Other aspects shown in the FCC's images include a 3.5mm headphone jack, SIM/memory card tray, and microUSB port. The draft manual suggests the phone runs the Android operating system, which is common to Alcatel phones, but does not reveal any other features of the phone. The FCC documents confirm the 6058 supports Bluetooth and WiFi, as well as several LTE bands used by U.S. carriers. Despite the branding, the 6058 does not appear to be a smaller version of the Alcatel Idol 5S. It doesn't include stereo speakers, nor the same design language as the Idol 5S. This breaks with Alcatel's device naming conventions over the last few years. TCL has not officially shared details concerning the 6058.

Microsoft Adds PayPal 'Send Money' Tool to Skype

Aug 2, 2017, 9:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said the latest version of Skype for Android and iOS devices makes it possible to send funds to other Skype users via PayPal. Users will be able to send money through PayPal without leaving the Skype app. The sender will need the new version of Skype to send PayPal funds, but the recipient can accept funds from older versions of Skype. Both the sender and the receiver, however, will need a PayPal account in order to fund and accept the money. If the recipient does not have a PayPal account, they'll be prompted to create one in order to access the funds. The service is available in the U.S. and 21 other countries, and supports the ability to send funds in various currencies. The new version of Skype is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.

Latest OxygenOS for OnePlus 5 Adds Features, Tackles Bugs

Aug 1, 2017, 10:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

OnePlus today began pushing OxygenOS 4.5.7 to the OnePlus 5 smartphone, introducing new features while also installing updates, optimizations, and bug fixes. Additions include an all-new font called OnePlus Slate. More importantly, 4K video capture gains access to electronic image stabilization. OxygenOS 4.5.7 updates the OnePlus 5 to the July 1 Android security patch and includes the latest GMS package. As for optimizations and bug fixes, the new operating system improves WiFi connectivity and standby battery performance, while resolving sound leaks in the speaker, shutter bug sound issues, and missing sound channels in recorded video. OnePlus says OxygenOS 4.5.7 will reach some OnePlus 5 owners beginning today, with more receiving the update in the days ahead.

Google Image Search Gains Badges to Help Classify Results

Aug 1, 2017, 9:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today added a new tool to image search that should help clarify what type of content is available within the individual search results. Moving forward, people will begin to see small badges in the bottom left corner of image results that indicate what's behind the image. For example, an image search for "cupcakes" may include pictures, recipes, videos, and more. The badges will call out the image category, providing some clarity on what will happen if you tap the image. Tapping a photo marked "recipe" will open a search result with cupcake recipes, and so on. Google says some image search results may be marked as videos, products, or as GIFs. The new badge tool is being made available to Google image search on Android and the mobile web.

Google Refreshes Nearby Connections API for P2P Interactions

Jul 31, 2017, 12:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released the Nearby Connections 2.0 API to developers, which will eventually help Android devices find, connect to, and communicate with other nearby devices all on their own. The vision is to make it possible for Android handsets to automatically share information with internet-of-things-type devices, such as personal temperature preferences with thermostats, Netflix playlists with connected television sets, and so on. According to Google, the Nearby Connections API makes use of WiFi, Bluetooth LE, and standard Bluetooth to discover and talk to nearby devices. An internet or other network connection is not required. The API relies on the strengths of each connection type while sidestepping the weaknesses. This means it will always find the best way to connect and transfer bytes, files, and streams of data. The API supports two connection topologies: stars (with one central node) and clusters (mesh-like). Google has been testing the API with several partners, including Hopstar, which has created a way for people to share media files when their devices are offline, such as on airplanes. Developers can download the API from Google. It is supported on all devices running Google Play Services 11.

LG Says Its Q6 Smartphone Is Coming to the Americas Soon

Jul 31, 2017, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today said the Q6, the first phone in its new Q series, will soon be more broadly available. The phone is launching in South Korea this week and will follow in key markets in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. The company did not say in which countries the phone will be sold, but indicated that country-specific announcements will be made closer to launch. The Q6 features a 5.5-inch, 18:9 display with full HD+ resolution (2,160 by 1,080 pixels) and minimized bezels. The phone is protected by a 7000 series aluminum frame with rounded corners that match the curvature of the display, much like that of the G6. It carriers over many the G6's software features, such as Android 7.1 Nougat, the square camera, and Google Assistant, while adding facial recognition for unlocking the phone. The main camera has a standard-angle 13-megapixel sensor and the front camera has a 100-degree, wide-angle 5-megapixel sensor. The Q6 is powered by a Snapdragon 435 processor and includes a 3,000mAh battery, microUSB, Bluetooth, WiFi, and NFC.

Microsoft Cans Its WordFlow Keyboard App for iOS

Jul 31, 2017, 7:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently withdrew its WordFlow keyboard application from the iTunes App Store. WordFlow was one of many Microsoft Garage projects, which are chiefly apps that target Android and iOS devices. WordFlow for iOS was a version of Microsoft's capable swipe-style keyboard that was originally found on Windows Phone. On its own web site, Microsoft calls the WordFlow experiment "complete" and suggests people download SwiftKey instead. "The SwiftKey product team is frequently building and evaluating new features for SwiftKey and shipping updates," said the WordFlow team. Microsoft bought SwiftKey in February 2016.

Android Auto Can Now Navigate with Waze

Jul 26, 2017, 9:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made Waze available within Android Auto. The new integration means those who prefer Waze to Google Maps can take advantage of Waze via their car's in-dash infotainment center. In order to use Waze, Android users will need to download the latest version of Android Auto and Waze, and then connect their phone to their car via USB. Waze is a popular alternative to Google Maps because it provides real-time information about accidents, construction closures, and other events that may impact navigation. It relies on crowd-sourced data to provide the most up-to-date information. Google says Waze fans will be able to navigate to their favorite destinations saved in Waze (work, home, etc.), receive visual and audio alerts about hazards, check the estimated time of arrival along with alternate routes, and of course help other Waze users by sharing information about accidents and traffic jams. Google said it is working on a version of Waze that works within Android Auto directly on smartphones, but for now Waze integration is limited to in-dash access.

Giphy Makes It Possible to Create GIFs In Your Mobile Browser

Jul 26, 2017, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Giphy recently rolled out a new tool that eases the GIF creation process. Now, there's no app to download and install because Giphy built the GIF maker into its mobile web site. People need only enter a YouTube or video URL, or capture or upload a video to begin the process of creating a GIF. The tool supports text and graphics overlays, and once the GIFs are saved online they can be shared most anywhere across the web. Giphy's new GIF maker is free to use in Chrome and Safari on Android and iOS devices.

Motorola Reveals the Moto Z2 Force Flagship with Shattershield

Jul 25, 2017, 10:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 25, 2017, 11:37 AM

Motorola today announced the Moto Z2 Force, its flagship handset for 2017. The Z2 Force carries over the Shattershield nearly unbreakable display from last year's phone. It is a slim handset boasting a metal chassis and compatibility with Motorola's system of Moto Mods accessories. The display measures 5.5 inches and offers quad HD resolution. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 835 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The new dual-camera array includes two sensors (one standard, one monochromatic) in the single raised module with two-tone flash. The cameras capture 12-megapixel images and allow for true black-and-white photography as well as selective focus for blurred backgrounds. Other specs include a wide-angle, user-facing camera with CCT flash for more accurate skin tones. The device includes Motorola's TurboPower charging with all-day battery life. Motorola says a 15-minute charge delivers 8 hours of battery life. This year's phone includes Motorola's standard nano-coating to protect the inner components from water damage, but the Z2 Force is not fully waterproof. It includes Motorola's multi-function fingerprint sensor as well as Moto Display with quick reply and Moto Voice with "show me" commands. The phone will be available in gray, black, and gold colors. The phone will be sold by most U.S. carriers and is available for preorder starting today. Motorola said the Moto Z2 Force hits stores August 10. It runs Android 7 Nougat.

Google Maps and Google Search Debut SOS Function

Jul 25, 2017, 7:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced its Google Maps and Google Search apps will soon show critical information regarding natural and other disasters that may strike. The SOS Alerts, as they are called, will appear at the top of search results and within maps as people look for information concerning the disasters or impacted areas. In Google Search, results will include pertinent news stories or broadcasts, emergency numbers, and relevant web sites. Those close to disaster areas may receive push alerts with the same information. In Google Maps, Google will showcase data concerning the event, phone numbers and web sites, as well as placement on the map and real-time information regarding road closures or changes to mass transit. Google partnered with agencies including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross to gain access to the information. Google is bringing SOS Alerts to its mobile Search and Maps apps for Android and iOS. The same information will also be available to desktop machines.

Samsung Makes the Galaxy J7 and Galaxy J3 Available Unlocked

Jul 24, 2017, 3:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today added the Galaxy J7 and Galaxy J3 to its list of unlocked smartphones. The two inexpensive handsets will be available to purchase directly from Samsung's web site as well as select retailers starting July 28. The J7 (pictured) is the larger, costlier of the two with a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen and $220 price tag. It also has a 3,300mAh battery, 8-megapixel main camera, and 5-megapixel front camera with flash. The smaller J3 has a 5-inch 720p HD display and a $150 price point. The J3 also has a 2,600mAh battery, 5-megapixel main camera, and 2-megapixel front camera. Both phones support expandable memory cards, support U.S. 3G/4G networks, and run Android 7 Nougat. They have been available from several U.S. carriers (AT&T/Cricket, T-Mobile/MetroPCS) for several months.

Google Drops Android O Release Candidate

Jul 24, 2017, 1:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made Android O Developer Preview 4 available to application developers and said this is the final preview before Google releases Android O to consumers later this year. This build contains the final user interface system behaviors, the latest bug fixes and optimizations, and the final set of APIs. Google says along with the penultimate version of Android O, it is offering developers the stable version of the Android 26.0.0 Support Library along with incremental updates to the SDK, Android Emulator, and other developer tools. Among the new tools is a way for developers to test their applications for Android O preparedness. Those who have enrolled their devices in the Android Beta Program should receive Developer Preview 4 over the air in the next few days. Google has already made the system images available for those who prefer to manually install updates. This new preview can be installed on the Nexus 6p and 5x, Pixel, Pixel XL, and Pixel C, and the Nexus Player. Some of the core features of Android O include picture-in-picture, notification dots, widget picker, new emoji, and revamped settings tools. Google said the final version is expected to arrive later this summer. Google still has not revealed what dessert the "O" will be.

OnePlus Says 8 GB Version of OnePlus 5 Available for Immediate Shipping

Jul 24, 2017, 7:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 24, 2017, 10:28 AM

OnePlus today said the high-end variant of its OnePlus 5 smartphone is now more widely available to U.S. buyers. Specifically, the OnePlus 5 Midnight Black with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage will now ship as soon as consumers place order. OnePlus initially launched this variant in limited supplies. This high-end model costs $539. The OnePlus 5 has a 5.5-inch full HD screen, Snapdragon 835 processor, dual cameras, 3,000mAh battery with rapid charging, and broad support for worldwide LTE bands. It ships with OxygenOS, which is based on Android 7 Nougat.

Andy Rubin's Essential Phone to Arrive In 'A Few Weeks'

Jul 21, 2017, 10:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Andy Rubin today provided an update concerning the expected arrival of his new company's Essential PH-1 smartphone. "We’ve been hard at work getting everything ready and the good news is that we’re now going through certification and testing with multiple U.S. and international carriers," said Rubin in an email to supporters. "You might be getting impatient to get your hands on your new Essential Phone (and I’m also impatient to get it to you!) but rest assured that you will have a device in your hands in a few weeks." Rubin said his team is "sweating the details and working long hours to get this device shipped." Rubin had previously committed to shipping the phone by the end of June. It now appears the device will arrive in August. The Essential PH-1 has a unique, magnet-based system for accepting modular attachments, such as a 360-degree camera, on the back panel. It includes a 5.7-inch quad HD screen with curved corners, Snapdragon 835 processor, and dual rear cameras. It will run a near-stock version of Android 7 Nougat and ship completely devoid of brand names or logos. Essential will sell the PH-1 directly to consumers, though Sprint also plans to carry the phone. It costs $699.

Alexa Arrives In Amazon's Android App

Jul 20, 2017, 2:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon is making Alexa, its artificial intelligence, available to the Android mobile shopping application beginning this week. Any Android device with the Amazon app aboard will have access to Alexa, allowing people to search for and buy goods simply by asking Alexa. Amazon brought this functionality to the iOS Amazon shopping app earlier this year. Amazon says Android users can search for paper towels or reorder batteries and Alexa will do those things within the confines of the Amazon app. The app also lets people listen to music and play Kindle books, ask basic questions, add skills, access Smart Home features, and check the news, weather, and traffic via voice requests. The app works with Android users' Amazon accounts and subscriptions to services such as Amazon Prime. Android device owned can access Alexa by tapping a microphone built into the app. Separate Alexa-powered devices, such as the Amazon Echo, are not required. The Amazon mobile shopping app for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.

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