Phone Scoop

printed November 18, 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


Hands On with the T-Mobile REVVL Plus

Yesterday, 8:30 AM   by Rich Brome

T-Mobile's relatively new REVVL brand is all about affordability and popular features, like large screens and fingerprint readers. The REVVL Plus is the second in the series, made by Coolpad. It has a massive six-inch, 16:9 display, a fingerprint reader, and dual cameras. Otherwise, it's a pretty standard affordable Android phone. What's it like in person? We checked it out.

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OnePlus 5T Stretches the Screen to 6 Inches with 2:1 Aspect Ratio

Thursday, 12:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 12:05 PM

OnePlus today announced the OnePlus 5T, an update to its 2017 flagship handset that adopts the 2:1 aspect ratio for the display. The new OLED screen measures 6 inches from corner to corner and includes 2,160 by 1,080 pixels. In order to accommodate the new display, OnePlus relocated the fingerprint reader to the rear of the phone. The device adds a facial recognition tool for security. OnePlus says it takes only 0.4 seconds to recognize the owner’s face and unlock. Other than these changes, the 5T is similar in terms of design and specifications to the OnePlus 5 from earlier this year. The 5T boasts a metal unibody design with a slim and rounded profile. The phone carries over the alert slider, USB-C port, 3.5mm headphone jack, and dual-camera array from the OnePlus 5. The camera configuration is changed a bit. The main camera is the same 16-megapixel sensor as the 5, and the secondary relies on a 20-megapixel sensor. Rather than include a telephoto lens, the secondary camera adopts better low-light technology. Both lenses share the same focal length and f/1.7 aperture. The 5T is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor and the handset comes in two memory configurations: 6 GB of RAM with 64 GB of storage, and 8 GB of RAM with 128 GB of storage. Other specs include a 3,300mAh battery with Dash Charge, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, GPS, WiFi, and Cat 12 LTE with 3x carrier aggregation and support for 34 worldwide LTE bands. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat with the latest build of OnePlus' OxygenOS UI on top. OnePlus said the 5T will have access to Android 8 Oreo as a beta in December. The phone goes on sale November 21 for $499.


Asus ZenFone V Live Lets You Livestream Zit-Free Video

Thursday, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless and Asus today announced the ZenFone V Live, a social media-focused handset that includes a real-time blemish remover. With the ZenFone V Live, people can take advantage of the selfie camera's beautification options to soften complexions and remove skin blemishes when livestreaming to Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube. (Such effects are typically applied to still images after the fact.) Otherwise, the ZenFone V Live is a mid-range handset with curved glass and a metal body design. It has a 5-inch 720p HD display and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor with 2 GB of memory and 16 GB of storage. The 13-megapixel camera includes features such as panorama, slow-motion, time-lapse, and bokeh modes with boosted low-light performance. Additional features include a fingerprint reader, 3,000mAh battery, USB-C, and support for microSD memory cards. It runs Android 7 Nougat. Verizon is selling the Asus Zenfone V Live beginning today for $168, or $7 per month for 24 months.


Google Refreshes Maps to Help Aid Navigation

Wednesday, 1:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a significant change to the appearance of Google Maps. According to Google, it has updated the look of driving, navigation, and transit maps in a way so ancillary information is more visible, such as gas stations when driving or train stations when riding the rails. Maps now relies on a new color scheme to define its legend and (hopefully) make it easier for people to differentiate between points of interest based on color alone. For example, orange signifies food and drink options, while green is for outdoor spaces, and purple is for roadside services. Google believes once people understand the color scheme, they'll be able to spot what they want or need quicker when using Google Maps. Google says this change will impact all versions of Maps (mobile, desktop), as well as other Google services that rely on Maps, such as Assistant, Search, Earth, and Android Auto. The changes will be rolled out over the next few weeks.


T-Mobile's Revvl Plus Hits Stores November 17 for $200

Tuesday, 8:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Revvl Plus, made by Coolpad, is the latest smartphone to carry the T-Mobile brand. This big brother to the Revvl offers big features at a small price. The Revvl Plus cranks the screen size up to 6 inches with full HD resolution. The phone is powered by a 2.0 GHz octa-core processor with 2 GB of memory and 32 GB of storage. The Revvl Plus boasts dual cameras on the rear, a rare feature for a phone at this price point. The main sensor captures 13-megapixel HDR images while the secondary sensor captures 5-megapixel shots. The front camera has its own 8-megapixel camera. Other features of the Revvl Plus include fingerprint sensor, LTE, expandable storage, and 3,380mAh battery. T-Mobile plans to sell the phone starting November 17. It will cost $200, or $8 per month for 24 months with an $8 down payment. The Revvl Plus runs Android 7.1 Nougat.


Google Testing Beta of 'Files Go' App for Managing Phone Storage

Nov 9, 2017, 9:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is testing a new application for Android phones that can help people better manage on-device storage. Files Go, according to Google, can be put to use to clean up space and keep files organized. For example, it can identify rarely-used apps, spam, and duplicate images that can all be removed to free up storage. Files Go's built-in search tools can assist in finding photos, videos, and documents. The app also makes it easy to quickly and securely share files offline. The app itself is small at just 6 MB. Files Go Beta is free to download from the Google Play Store, though Google warns it may still be buggy.


Hands On with Asus ZenFone 4 and ZenFone 4 Pro

Nov 8, 2017, 12:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Asus' mid-range ZenFone 4 and high-end ZenFone 4 Pro may look alike, but they differ quite a bit under the hood. Where the former is an affordable handset, the latter is closer in price to today's flagships. If you're looking for a finer Android phone from Asus, the ZenFone 4 and ZenFone 4 Pro are where you should start. Here are our initial thoughts.

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Hands On with Asus ZenFone 4 Max 5.2 and Max 5.5

Nov 8, 2017, 10:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Asus ZenFone 4 Max series includes two budget-focused Android handsets. The two phones share most design characteristics and many specs, with the screens (5.2 inches and 5.5 inches) serving as the biggest differentiator. These unlocked devices are available online if you're looking for an affordable alternative to today's carrier fare. Here are our first impressions.

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Snapchat Says Brand New Android App In the Works

Nov 7, 2017, 6:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel today said the company plans to rebuild its Android application, making it easier to use and more appealing to novices. "To attract more Android users, we are building a new version of our Android application from the ground up that we will launch in select markets before rolling it out widely," said Spiegel today as part of the company's quarterly earnings call. "This new version of our application leverages everything we have learned about building for Android over the past five years, to provide a more performant product experience that we know our community will appreciate." Spiegel says its Android app has already improved by leaps and bounds this year, though he suggested the 60,000 individual Android form factors using the service have complicated its engineering efforts. Spiegel admitted that the app can be difficult to understand and hopes the new version will help boost its user growth. Snapchat didn't say when it might roll the new app out to beta testers or end users. Snapchat is popular due to the ephemeral nature of its content and disappearing stories.


Instagram Opens Up Entire Camera Roll to Stories

Nov 7, 2017, 1:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today said people will be able to add older photos to their ephemeral stories. Before today's update, only photos captured within the previous 24 hours could be added to stories. Now, Instagram said people will be able to take any picture from their camera roll and add it to a story. The tool will automatically call up a sticker so users can provide details on when and where the photo was taken. Instagram said users can rotate, resize, or remove the date sticker if so desired. Stories themselves still disappear after 24 hours. The expanded camera roll access for stories is hitting the latest Instagram mobile app for Android and iOS. It will be available for download soon.


Google Assistant Now Recognizes Songs On Request

Nov 6, 2017, 5:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google Assistant on Android handsets is now able to identify songs playing in the background. As long as the music is audible, querying the Assistant with "what song is this?" will cause the app to listen for several seconds and identify the song. Results include the song title, artist, album, lyrics, and links to associated online music services, such as YouTube, Spotify, and Google Play. The feature is free to use and is being rolled out gradually. Google's new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL handsets include a song-recognizing feature that runs in the background and displays the song/artist information on the ambient display.


Google Pixel and Nexus Devices Gain November Security Patch

Nov 6, 2017, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made its monthly security update available to its branded Android devices. November's patch plugs a handful of security holes that threaten Android devices. Google found dozens of vulnerabilities, most of which were classified as moderately dangerous though some were rated as high and others as critical. Some of problems are related to specific hardware and the associated software drivers that control them, such as components from MediaTek, Nvidia, and Qualcomm. Other vulnerabilities impact the kernel, system, and media framework directly. Google is pushing a patch dated November 5 to resolve these issues. Google said the Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel C, Nexus Player, Nexus 5X, and Nexus 6P devices will receive the November security patch directly over the air. The updated factory image for each of these devices is available for download from Google's developer web site. Google says none of these security holes have yet been exploited. Google already supplied the patches to its handset partners and will soon get one to AOSP.


Samsung Letting Galaxy S8 Owners Test Drive Android 8

Nov 2, 2017, 4:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said select customers will soon be able to beta test Samsung Experience 9.0 before its official release. The Samsung Experience, formerly called TouchWiz, is the user interface that Samsung created for its device ecosystem. Starting November 2, Galaxy S8 and S8+ users based in the U.S., U.K., and South Korea will have access to Samsung Experience 9.0, which is based on Android 8 Oreo. Samsung hopes to use the beta period to assess user feedback and fine-tune the platform before its release for "the next flagship Galaxy device." Interested beta testers will need to have an active Samsung account and meet certain (unspecified) requirements. Samsung said the beta may be distributed via the Samsung+ app in the U.S., which is available from the Google Play Store. People can apply to test Samsung Experience 9.0 through the app.


Google Assistant Now Speaks Spanish and Italian

Nov 1, 2017, 3:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made its Google Assistant available in a couple of Romance languages. The Google Assistant now speaks in Spanish and Italian on Android handsets. Google says Spanish is available in the U.S., Mexico, and Spain, while Italian is available in Italy. The Assistant already speaks English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, and Portuguese. Google says support for Spanish and Italian will roll out to end users over the next few weeks.


Cricket Wireless Debuts the ZTE Overture 3

Nov 1, 2017, 2:43 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today announced the ZTE Overture 3, an inexpensive Android handset. The phone has a 5-inch FWVGA screen and it relies on a quad-core 1.1 GHz processor with 16 GB of storage. A 5-megapixel camera with flash adorns the rear, while a 2-megapixel camera sits on front. Both can capture video up to 720p HD. The phone is powered by a 2,115mAh battery. Others features include Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, and LTE 4G. It runs Android 7 Nougat. Cricket says the ZTE Overture 3 will reach stores on November 10. The phone costs $50, but Cricket will give it those who port in their number for free.


Unlocked Blu S1 Compatible with Most U.S. Carriers

Nov 1, 2017, 7:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 6, 2017, 1:23 PM

Blu Products recently announced the S1, an inexpensive Android smartphone that's available unlocked from Amazon.com and BestBuy.com. One of the chief benefits of the S1 is its wide compatibility with U.S. LTE networks. It supports AT&T and T-Mobile, and, unusually, Sprint, as well as their prepaid services including Cricket Wireless, Boost Mobile, and MetroPCS. Blu says it also offers SIM kits for the S1 from Tracfone, Net10, and H2O. The S1 features a curved glass front with metallic paint on the smooth rear panel. The 5.2-inch display offers 720p HD resolution in a 16:9 aspect ratio, and the phone is powered by an octa-core 1.5 GHz MediaTek 6750 processor with 2 GB of RAM. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/2.0 and an LED flash, while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Other features include Bluetooth, FM radio, GPS, and WiFi; 16 GB of storage and support for microSD memory cards; front-mounted fingerprint sensor; and a 2,800mAh battery. The Blu S1 runs Android 7 Nougat and is available online for $130 from Amazon and $180 from Best Buy.


Google Rolling Out 'Fast Pair' Bluetooth for Android Devices

Oct 31, 2017, 11:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a new feature headed to Android phones that should ease Bluetooth pairing pains. The tool, called Fast Pair, makes discovering and pairing with nearby Bluetooth devices much simpler. Google says Fast Pair is being made available to devices running at least Google Play Services 11.7 and Android 6 Marshmallow (and up). Fast Pair relies on Bluetooth Low Energy. Accessories will need to adopt the technology in order for Fast Pair to work properly. Devices with BLE on board will, when put in pairing mode, send information regarding the device identity to nearby Bluetooth devices. The Android phone will see the BLE broadcast and send information back to Google's servers to learn the product name, find the product companion app, and verify the product image. Google then pushes a notification with a "tap to pair" feature complete with the product details. Users need only accept the notification to complete pairing automatically. Google says people will be able to test Fast Pair with Google Pixel Buds or Libratone's Q Adapt On-Ear headphones. Plantronics' Voyager 8200 series wireless headsets will also soon support Fast Pair. Fast Pair is being made available to Android devices over time.


Nokia 2 Rounds Out the Bottom of HMD Global's Android Lineup

Oct 31, 2017, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HMD Global today announced the Nokia 2, an entry-level Android smartphone that promises two-day battery life. The phone has a metal frame, polycarbonate rear plate, and Gorilla Glass 3 front. The display measures 5 inches and offers 720p HD resolution. Underneath the hood, the Nokia 2 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 processor with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. The primary camera has an 8-megaixel sensor with autofocus and LED flash, while the front camera has a 5-megapixel, fixed-focus sensor. The phone packs a huge 4,100mAh battery for extended uptime. Other specs include CAT 4 LTE, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, WiFi, and FM radio, and support for dual SIM cards or one SIM and one memory card. The Nokia 2 runs Android 7 Nougat with the Google Assistant on board. The Nokia 2 goes on sale later this year for about $120. There's no word yet if it will be made available to North American consumers.


Essential's PH-1 Smartphone Gains a KRACK Patch

Oct 30, 2017, 5:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 30, 2017, 5:03 PM

Essential Products today said it has a new software patch for the PH-1 smartphone. The latest build (NMJ20D) improves touch scrolling, patches the KRACK wifi vulnerability, and makes other small tweaks and improvements along the way. The patch is small enough for an over-the-air download and is already being pushed out to PH-1 owners. Essential recently dropped the price of the PH-1 from $699 to $499. It is also offering additional discounts on some accessories, and PH1 purchases for those who've already bought at least one PH-1. The PH-1 was created by Andy Rubin, who helped develop the Android operating system. The PH-1 is a high-end device with large display, powerful camera, and Snapdragon 835 processor.


YouTube TV Finally Gains An App for TV Sets

Oct 30, 2017, 11:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced that YouTube TV subscribers can now access the television service directly from compatible TV sets and streaming boxes. Until today, the service was limited to a mobile app on smartphones and tablets that needed to be cast to TV sets. Google says the YouTube TV app for TV devices is available today to the Nvidia Shield, TVs with Android TV built-in, as well as the Xbox One, One S, and (soon) One X. In the next few weeks, this same app will arrive on additional smart TVs from LG, Samsung, and Sony, as well as the Apple TV streaming box. Subscribers with any of these devices will be able to access and view YouTube TV directly from their television set and can leave their phone or tablet on the coffee table. The app for TV boxes includes the three existing tabs for live TV, recorded/library content, and the home screen. Google changed the app's white background to black for TVs, and added a new Live Guide that's better at displaying what's coming on later. People will be able to use their streaming box or game controller to control live TV, and can pick up where they left off on mobile devices. YouTube TV supports up to six individual users on a single account, each of whom has access to an unlimited DVR of recordings. YouTube TV offers about 50 channels, including live broadcasts from ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC, to many of the major markets around the country. It costs $35 per month.


Instagram Adds 'Superzoom' Tool for Funny Videos

Oct 26, 2017, 12:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today added several new creative options for users that should expand what they're able to do with the app. First, a tool called Superzoom is here to add some drama to videos. Tapping Superzoom with cause the video to automatically zoom in with suspenseful music. Instagram says Superzoom works with either the main or selfie cameras, and results can be sent privately or added to users' stories. Next, Instagram is offering, for a limited time, new Halloween-themed face filters and stickers. The face filters allow people to turn themselves into zombies, vampires, and more, while the stickers can be added for holiday fun. The face filters and stickers will be available through November 1. Superzoom is here to stay. The new tools are available in the latest version of Instagram for Android and iOS.


LG Q6 to Come to U.S. as Amazon Prime Exclusive

Oct 26, 2017, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon today announced that it will soon offer a slew of LG Android smartphones through its Amazon Prime Exclusives program. Among them is the LG Q6 (pictured), marking the first time this particular phone is being made available to U.S. consumers. The Q6, announced in July, features a 5.5-inch, 18:9 display with full HD+ resolution, curved aluminum frame, and minimized bezels. It runs Android 7.1 Nougat and includes Google Assistant and 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 and NFC. The Q6 costs $300, but Amazon Prime members can buy it for $230 through Amazon Prime Exclusives. Handsets sold under the Prime Exclusives banner cost less because users agree to view advertisements on the lock screen. Amazon said the Q6 will become available in the coming months. Amazon is also slated to sell the LG G6 ($400), G6+ ($500), and X charge ($150), all of which have been for sale directly from carriers since earlier this year. All four phones are sold unlocked with support for AT&T and T-Mobile.


Google Releases Android 8.1 Developer Preview

Oct 25, 2017, 12:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made the first developer preview of Android 8.1 Oreo available to app writers and beta testers. This update to Android is anything but minor, as it includes a significant number of under-the-hood changes. First up is the Neural Networks API, which lets apps take advantage of hardware acceleration for on-device machine learning operations. Android 8.1 makes changes to notifications. For example, apps can now only make a notification alert sound once per second. Android 8.1 helps developers target low-RAM devices through two new hardware features that let them split their APK into versions for normal and memory-constrained handsets. The beta makes improvements to Oreo's autofill behaviors. For example, developers can create custom descriptions so the Android system shows only partial text strings to protect data such as credit card numbers. Google made it simple to take advantage of the Safe Browsing API, which lets apps detect when an instance of WebView attempts to navigate to a known bad URL. Developers can then customize how their apps respond to known threats. A new shared memory API lets developers create, map, and manage anonymous shared memory that can be used by multiple processes or apps. The WallpaperColors API adds support for managing wallpaper colors. Last, new behaviors can be assigned to the fingerprint reader on Android handsets, including the opportunity to permanently lockout users who fail too many times to unlock their device with a fingerprint. The Android 8.1 Oreo Developer Preview is available to registered developers and Android beta testers. Google has made system images available for direct installation on compatible handsets, though an over-the-air update will also reach registered Google users in the near future.


Amazon Rolls Out New Appstore for Android Devices

Oct 25, 2017, 7:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon has made available a new version of its Amazon Appstore mobile app for Android. Amazon says the Appstore has been rebuilt from the ground up with revised navigation tools. For example, a nav bar at the bottom of the app lets people jump between different pages, while the categories tab lets users quickly sort through apps in a more visual way. A tab called My Apps helps people manage the apps they've already downloaded from the Appstore to their device. The Appstore makes use of Amazon Coins for making app purchases. People can buy Coins in bulk at a discount, which Amazon says saves money over the long run when compared to traditional payment methods. Amazon says most Android app developers won't need to do anything to adjust their apps for the new Appstore. The Amazon Appstore for Android is free to download directly from Amazon.


HMD Global Allowing Nokia 8 Owners to Beta Test Oreo

Oct 25, 2017, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HMD Global unveiled the Nokia Phones Beta Lab, where it will make pre-release versions of software available to interested testers. The first release is a beta build of Android 8 Oreo, which is being offered to the Nokia 8 smartphone. As expected, the beta software adds notification dots, picture-in-picture, autofill passwords, quicker boot times, and the latest security patch. Nokia 8 owners will need to join the Nokia Phones Beta Lab in order to gain access to Android 8. HMD Global didn't say how long it will test Android 8 on the Nokia 8, nor how soon it might offer Oreo to other handsets. The Nokia 8 is HMD Global's current flagship smartphone. It has a 5.3-inch quad HD display, Snapdragon 835 processor, series 6000 aluminum shell, and 13-megapixel front and rear cameras with Zeiss optics.


Gmail Gains Third-Party Add-Ons

Oct 24, 2017, 12:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today added support for add-ons to Gmail on the web and Android devices. Add-ons allows power users to bridge Gmail with other business apps for smoother productivity and workflows. Moving forward, Gmail will be able to "contextually surface your go-to app" based on the email at hand to get things done faster. Google says add-ons function the same across the web and Android, so they will only need to be installed and activated once. Google has been testing add-ons with developers since earlier this year. Some of the first to support add-ons include Asana, Dialpad, DocuSign, Hire, Intuit QuickBooks, RingCentral, Smartsheet, Streak, and Trello. The Trello add-on, for example, lets people turn emails into actionable tasks within Trello than can be shared with colleagues. Google says add-ons for Gmail will first be available to its G Suite business customers.


Google Assistant Now Features Family Fun Activities

Oct 24, 2017, 12:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today added some 50 games, activities, and stories intended for families to Google Assistant. Using Google Assistant on Android devices or Google Home, families can initiate fun and learning activities by saying things such as "Okay Google, let's learn" or "lets play a game" or "tell me a story." Google says the kid-friendly update is meant to help families spend time pursuing activities together than don't necessarily involve screens. The new family fun stuff can be configured for kids younger than age 13 (with parents permission) so children can have their own personalized account via Family Link. The new features are rolling out to Android and Google Home devices today.


Instagram Lets People Add Friends to Live Video

Oct 24, 2017, 11:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today added a feature to its live video tool: the ability to add a second participant. When broadcasting live video, a new button makes it possible to invite another to join the broadcast. When that person accepts, the live video will change to a split-screen view with the original broadcaster in one window and the invitee in another. The original broadcaster can remove their guest and add someone else at any time, and so too can the invitee leave the stream whenever they wish. A new symbol (two stacked circles) makes it easy to see when live video includes more than one participant. Instagram says the new live video feature is rolling out to the latest version of its Android and iOS mobile apps.


Google Assistant On Smartphones Now Responds to 'Hey Google'

Oct 24, 2017, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated its voice-based assistant on Android smartphones to respond to a new catchphrase. In order to activate Google Assistant by voice, smartphone owners have until now needed to speak the "Okay Google" catchphrase. Some feel the phrase is awkward to speak. A new update pushed to the Google Assistant app allows people to use the slightly-easier-to-say "Hey Google" phrase instead. This latter phrase has been available to the Google Home product for a while. Google Assistant is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Sony XZ Premium Scores Android 8 Oreo Update with 3D Creator

Oct 24, 2017, 7:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony has begun updating its Xperia XZ Premium smartphone with Android 8 Oreo. Android 8 includes a handful of new features for smartphones, including notification dots, better app management, and picture-in-picture. Sony is taking things a step further. Sony is giving the XZ Premium one of the best features of the new XZ1 and XZ1 Compact handsets, the 3D Creator tool. With 3D Creator, people can create 3D scans of real-world objects such as faces, heads, and food. The update also gives the XZ Premium predictive (smile) capture, autofocus burst, improved sound quality, and app shortcuts. Sony says the update is being pushed out in phases.


Blu Vivo 8L Takes Aim At Selfie Fans

Oct 24, 2017, 7:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Blu Products today announced the Vivo 8L, an update to the Vivo 8 that boasts a powerful selfie camera. The Vivo 8L is based around a 5.3-inch 720p HD screen with curved Gorilla Glass 3. Blu put a 1.3 GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6753 processor under the hood with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of internal storage. The selfie camera has a 20-megapixel, wide-angle sensor with a f/2.0 aperture, LED flash, and features such as smart scene detection and face beautification software. The main camera is based on a 13-megapixel Sony IMX258 sensor with f/2.0 aperture, LED flash, HDR, PDAF/laser focus, and slow-motion video capture. Other features include Bluetooth, GPS, LTE, WiFi, fingerprint reader, and 4,000mAh battery with rapid charging. It runs Android 7 Nougat and is sold unlocked with basic support for AT&T and T-Mobile. The Blu Vivo 8L costs $200, but Amazon.com is offering it for $150 starting today.


MTA Approves $573M for Contactless Fare System

Oct 23, 2017, 4:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority plans to do away with the aging MetroCard fare system in favor of one that supports contactless payments, reports the New York Times. The agency has approved a $573 million contract to update the system's turnstiles with new wireless readers that can accept smartphones and certain types of credit/debit cards. The readers will be installed in some 500 subway turnstiles and 600 NYC buses beginning in late 2018, with a projected completion date of late 2020. The new wireless fare payment system will replace MetroCards, though the cards won't be phased out until 2023. The new system will handle fares for the MTA-operated Long Island Railroad and Metro-North train systems, but not Amtrak or NJ Transit. The system will be compatible with Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung pay, as well as cards that carry NFC chips. The MTA first began accepting proposals for a wireless payment system in April 2016.


'Pay with Google' Goes Live for Online and In-App Payments

Oct 23, 2017, 7:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made good on its promise back in May to release a tool for improving online and in-app payments. Pay with Google allows people to pay with any card on file, including the card they might have associated with Android Pay, Google Play, YouTube, or Chrome. As people navigate the checkout process online Google sends the merchant all the payment and shipping information, negating the need for people to type those details in manually. The transaction then moves forward as it normally would. In order for the service to work within web sites and applications, developers will need to add it themselves with the Google Payment API. Google tells developers they only need to insert a few lines of code to make Pay with Google an option at checkout, and Google doesn't take any fees. Some of the early adopters online include Eat24, Fancy, Kayak, and PostMates, with others including AirBnB, Hotel Tonight, and StubHub coming soon. Some of the first payment services to support Google Pay include Braintree, Vantiv, and Stripe. Pay with Google competes with Apple Pay on the iPhone, which, in addition to handling retail transactions, also helps Mac users with online and in-app payments. Pay with Google is launching first in the U.S. and the U.K.


Essential Drops Price of PH-1 from $699 to $499

Oct 22, 2017, 6:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 23, 2017, 7:23 AM

Essential Products today dropped the price of its PH-1 smartphone by $200. In order to score the new price, consumers will need to order the phone from Essential.com. The company thanked its early supporters, who are being offered a $200 friends and family gift card toward the purchase of an Essential 360 Camera or another Essential PH-1. "At Essential, one of our driving principles is that premium craftsmanship and the latest technologies shouldn’t be for the few," explained the company in a blog post. "We could have created a massive TV campaign to capture your attention, but we think making it easier for people to get their hands on our first products is a better way to get to know us." Essential Products is spearheaded by Andy Rubin, who helped create the Android operating system. The PH-1 is a high-end handset with a large screen, bezel-less design, and top specs. The phone received mixed reviews when it went on sale earlier this year, mainly due to the camera. Essential has pushed several updates to improve the camera since its release. Sprint is the only U.S. operator that sells the Essential. The company has been offering a half-off lease program on the PH-1 for several weeks. "At $14.58 per month on Sprint Flex, Sprint still offers a better value on Essential Phone" than even Essential's new lower price. "Our current offer is 50% off the standard lease price," said Sprint to Phone Scoop via email. Sprint's lease program for the Essential PH-1 lasts 18 months.


ZTE Blade X Is the Latest Low-Cost Option from Cricket Wireless

Oct 20, 2017, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE and Cricket Wireless today announced the Blade X, an affordable Android smartphone with a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. The Blade X sports a 5.5-inch 720 HD screen with 2.5D Dragontail glass. The phone is powered by a 1.4 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 425 with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. It supports high-capacity microSD memory cards. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with LED flash and features such as manual, panorama, and time-lapse. The front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with digital zoom. ZTE gave the Blade X a large 3,000mAh battery with support for Quick Charge 1.0 for quicker powerups. Other features include mobile hotspot, HD Voice, Dolby Audio, FM Radio, USB-C, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The Blade X runs Android 7.1 Nougat. It is available online and in stores today for $120.


Google Improves Visibility of Instant Apps with 'Try It Now' Button

Oct 19, 2017, 12:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today outlined a number of improvements it has made to the Play Store in order to help both consumers and developers make the most of Android apps and games. The most significant user-facing change is the addition of a "Try It Now" button that accompanies Instant Apps in the Play Store. This allows people to jump right into the app for sampling purposes without downloading or installing the full application. The idea is to give people a taste of what the app or game delivers without requiring them to download or pay for it right away. Google believes this will boost download numbers for developers. The Play Store now includes trailers for games and expanded screenshots depicting gameplay, as well as previews for upcoming releases. The curated Editors' Choice section is now live in 17 countries, providing the best apps and games with even more visibility on end-user devices. Google has made changes to the way it handles subscriptions, though these changes mostly benefit developers. For example, developers can now offer shorter free trials (minimum of three days), as well as enforce one free trial to reduce the potential for abuse. Moreover, beginning in January the subscription fee expense for developers will drop from 30% to 15% for customers who stick around for more than 12 months for any given subscription.


Samsung Embraces Google's ARCore for Augmented Reality

Oct 18, 2017, 3:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said it will work with Google to bring Google's ARCore augmented reality content to a wider range of its smartphones, including the Galaxy S8, S8+, and Note8. Using the ARCore SDK, developers will be able to create augmented reality experiences for millions of Galaxy handsets. Google announced ARCore in August. The effort will see less-demanding hardware requirements for running AR apps on Android devices, expanding AR's reach to some 100 million phones. In addition to its stance on AR, Samsung also provided an update on its efforts in the virtual reality space. For example, it continues to iterate on its Gear VR headset for Galaxy smartphones and recently introduced the Samsung Internet VR, a browser optimized for the Gear VR. Another app called Samsung PhoneCast VR lets people translate 2D apps into 3D AR through mirroring for improved gameplay. Samsung offers developers the Samsung Gear VR Framework, an open-source VR rendering engine with a Java interface. The Java UI gives developers a familiar environment in which to create without forcing them to learn new SDKs. Samsung says it will continue to work with partners such as Google and Facebook/Oculus to push mobile-based AR and VR forward.


Google Pixel Phones Have Hidden Image Processor

Oct 17, 2017, 12:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today revealed the Pixel Visual Core, a custom-designed co-processor that is built into every Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphone. The Image Processing Unit has eight cores, each with 512 arithmetic logic units (ALUs) that can handle some three trillion calculations per second. Google claims the Pixel Visual Core with HDR+ can run five times faster and at less than one-tenth the energy than running directly on the application processor. The Pixel Visual Core is laying dormant for the time being, but Google says it will turn the co-processor on soon. Google created advanced software to manage the Pixel’s ability to capture rich photos and it wants to extend that to other photo apps. The Pixel Visual Core will eventually allow third-party apps to use the Pixel’s HDR+ technology. Google plans to enable the Pixel Visual Core as a developer option in the developer preview of Android Oreo 8.1 (MR1) in the coming weeks. Later, Google will let third-party camera apps access it using the Android Camera API, giving them access to the Pixel 2’s HDR+ technology. The end result should be much better photos on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL when using photo apps other than the stock camera.


Hands On with the ZTE Axon M

Oct 17, 2017, 9:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 19, 2017, 9:05 AM

ZTE is trying something different with the Axon M. Rather than push out another boring slab, ZTE created an interesting Android smartphone with twin folding displays that can be set in a number of different and useful configurations. Need extra screen real estate in that document, or want to run two full-screen apps side by side? The Axon M does that and more. Here are Phone Scoop's first impressions of this AT&T-exclusive handset.

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ZTE's Axon M Boasts Dual, Folding Displays to Create Tablet-Sized Screen

Oct 17, 2017, 9:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 17, 2017, 9:45 AM

ZTE today announced the Axon M, a unique Android smartphone that has two full-sized displays that can unfold to create one larger screen for multitasking and viewing video. ZTE calls the Axon M a flagship handset, and it includes solid specs under the foldable aluminum chassis. Both screens measure 5.2 inches across the diagonal with full HD resolution. When fully opened, the combined screen real estate stretches 6.9 inches across the diagonal with 1,920 by 2,160 resolution. The displays are each covered by 2.5D Gorilla Glass 5. The Axon M includes three viewing modes suited to different tasks, such as running two apps at the same time, expanding the size of any given app, or sharing video with another person. ZTE says a decent number of apps will support the new viewing modes at launch, but it is releasing a series of tools to developers so they may adjust their apps to the Axom M form factor. The phone is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor with 4 GB of memory and 64 GB of storage. The phone supports memory cards up to 256 GB. The Axon M has a single 20-megapixel sensor that doubles as the main and selfie cameras. Imaging features include an aperture of f/1.8, phase-detection autofocus, image stabilization for photos/videos, as well as dual LED flash. The M carries over the Axon line's high-quality audio thanks to Dolby Atmos, the AKM 4962 audio chipset, and powerful stereo speakers. Other hardware features include Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi, LTE, rapid charging, and USB-C. The device runs Android 7. 1 Nougat, but ZTE said an update to Oreo isn't too far off. The Axon M will be an AT&T exclusive in the U.S. ZTE said it expects the phone will reach stores in time for the holiday shopping season. AT&T said it will charge $24 per month for 30 months for the phone, or about $725.

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