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Google to Acquire IoT Firm Xivley

Friday, 8:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google announced plans to acquire Xively, an internet-of-things provider, from LogMeIn. The company's technology will be added to Google's Cloud IoT Core unit, helping it with device management, messaging, and dashboard features. Google says its customers will reap the rewards of Xively's flexible, secure platform as they bring IoT products based on Clout IoT Core to market. Together with Google Cloud's data analytics and machine learning, Google expects the acquisition to benefit IoT device makers and service providers, as well as the customers of those companies. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. It is subject to regulatory approval.

Google Releases Lightweight Gmail Go for Low-End Android Phones

Thursday, 4:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has made a light and quick version of Gmail available to select handsets. Gmail Go is a slimmed-down version of Gmail that works better on devices with limited resources or spotty network connections. The app consumes less space on devices and requires less storage for email messages. It includes many of Gmail's signature features, including 15 GB of online storage, notifications, focused inbox, spam protection, and support for multiple accounts (IMAP/POP). Gmail Go is free to download from the Google Play Store, though Google hasn't specified which devices are able to use it. The majority fo Google's "Go" apps are reserved for entry-level devices in emerging markets. Gmail Go is not compatible with many of today's high-end phones.

Google Maps for iOS Gains One-Tap Access to Commute Info

Thursday, 12:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated Google Maps for iOS devices with new real-time tools to make finding information on the go even quicker. iPhone owners can now swipe up when using Google Maps to open three tabs: explore, driving, and transit. These tabs contain information about nearby restaurants, real-time traffic conditions, and train/bus schedules. These features have been available to Google Maps for Android since last year. Google Maps for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Project Fi Adds More Roaming Coverage and Travel Alerts

Thursday, 10:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google's Project Fi today expanded the number of countries in which subscribers can roam. Project Fi was already available in 135 countries, and now subscribers can visit any of 170 countries and access their Project Fi service. Project Fi provides no-cost roaming, meaning customers are charged the same rates abroad as they are at home, including free texts, $0.20-per-minute calls, and $10-per-gigabyte data. Project Fi will now also alert subscribers to roaming services available on upcoming trips. The service will scan users' email for flights and/or itineraries and let them know if they are covered in the destination country. Project Fi is Google's MVNO service. It is available to Pixel, Nexus and other select phones.

Facebook's Messenger Kids App Lands On Android Devices

Wednesday, 2:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook's messaging application for children, announced late last year, is now available for Android devices via the Google Play Store. Messenger Kids is a mobile app that gives kids under the age of 13 the power to communicate via text and video with approved family members and friends. The app works on smartphones and tablets, but is controlled through the parent's Facebook account. Messenger Kids was first made available to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, and later Amazon devices. The app is free to download and use.

Google Says Developers Can Use AMP for Email to Boost Gmail Experience

Feb 13, 2018, 9:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is porting its AMP technology to Gmail. Developers now have access to AMP for Email, a tool that allows them to create interactive, actionable email experiences that take place within Gmail itself, rather than secondary browser windows. For example, Google suggests AMP for Email would let people submit RSVPs to events, or fill out questionnaires from within individual messages. Moreover, AMP for Email brings a sense of dynamic change to emails, which can be updated with accurate or new information. Google has given Pinterest, Booking.com, and Doodle early access to AMP for Email and says people should be on the lookout for AMP experiences from these providers in their Gmail soon. Developers interested in checking out AMP for Email will need to register with Google for access. Google expects to fully roll out AMP in Email to Gmail later this year, and it said it hopes developers will bring AMP to Email for other email platforms as well.

Google's AMP Stories Let Web Publishers Tell Tap-Through Stories with Photos and Videos

Feb 13, 2018, 8:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a preview of AMP stories, a new tool for creators to bring content to the mobile web in a new and engaging way. AMP stories were inspired by the likes of Snapchat and Instagram, which both offer people the ability to tell on-going, ephemeral stories that others swipe through. AMP stories will work in similar fashion, but on the mobile web. AMP stories are built in the backbone of Google's existing AMP project, which gives them speed and reach. Publishers post an AMP story on their web page and link to it to help with discovery. Google says publishers can take advantage of existing tools, such as pre-rendering pages, caching, and optimizing for video so the end user experience is smooth. Google created preset templates with standard UI controls that it believes will work for most AMP stories, at least for now. Some publishers, including CNN, Conde Nast, Hearst, Mashable, Meredith, Mic, Vox Media, and The Washington Post, were given early access to put AMP stories to the test. Google says AMP stories are available for everyone to try on their web sites, and the story format is free and open to use. Publishers can find what they need from Google's developer web site. For end users, Google says people can find AMP content by opening their mobile browser and searching for "g.co/ampstories" along with one of the content creators listed above.

Chrome 68 Will Mark All HTTP Sites As 'Not Secure'

Feb 9, 2018, 8:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

In the interest of security, Google plans to call out web sites that don't adopt https. Later this year, version 68 of the Chrome web browser will proactively label web sites that don't make use of https encryption. The company has been casually marking such web sites, but will start to call them all out this summer. The goal is to encourage web developers to add https to their web sites, which will improve security for everyone. According to Google, over 68% of Chrome traffic on both Android and Windows is now protected, while over 78% of Chrome traffic on both Chrome OS and Mac is now protected. Fully 81 of the top 100 sites on the web use https by default. Google said it will adjust Chrome's user interface so users understand which sites are insecure and why they are insecure. Google says it has simplified its set-up guides to help web developers secure their sites with https.

Google Photos Debuts Create-Your-Own Themed Movies

Feb 7, 2018, 3:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today added the ability for people to craft their own themed movies in Google Photos. Google Photos' themed movies assemble photos of people, places, pets, or events and stitches them together — complete with soundtrack — into a shareable montage. Google Photos has been able to create these themed movies automatically through its Assistant since last year, but Photos now lets people put together their own movies. There are a number of pre-configured themes centered on kids, cats, dogs, selfies, and holidays such as Valentine's Day. The create-your-own themed movies are available online and from mobile devices. Google Photos continues to offer Photo Books for printing memories and shared libraries for commingling photos with friends and family. Google Photos is free to use online, and the mobile app can be downloaded from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

Nest Returns to Roost with Google's Hardware Team

Feb 7, 2018, 2:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alphabet today said it is putting its Nest and Google hardware teams together under a single roof. Since August 2015, Nest and Google have existed as separate entities under the Alphabet parent company. Moving forward, Google believes the two will work best together and thus the Nest team is being returned to Google. "The goal is to supercharge Nest’s mission: to create a more thoughtful home, one that takes care of the people inside it and the world around it," said Rick Osterloh, Google senior vice president of hardware, in a blog post. "By working together, we’ll continue to combine hardware, software and services to create a home that’s safer, friendlier to the environment, smarter and even helps you save money — built with Google’s artificial intelligence and the Assistant at the core." Google says Nest has doubled the size of its hardware portfolio over the last year, while Google has sold tens of millions of Google Home products. Pairing Nest's smart home products with Google's AI-based personal assistant is a sound business plan. Nest CEO Marwan Fawaz will report to Osterloh.

Google Adds a Dash of Augmented Reality to Motion Stills App

Feb 6, 2018, 4:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Motion Stills application for Android devices with augmented reality stickers. The feature lets Motion Stills users place virtual 3D objects in their viewfinders when filming videos and/or GIFs. People need only touch a spot in the viewfinder and Motion Stills will stick a 3D object in that spot, adding it to the scene. Google says it uses the device's internal accelerometer and gyroscope, along with the tracked ground plane, to align objects and allow them to move. Google is able to do this regardless of the device's orientation without calibration and keep things parallel to the ground. Recorded GIFs and videos with stickers can be shared via most social networks. Motion Stills for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Essential Says PH-1 Gaining February Security Patch

Feb 6, 2018, 2:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential Products today said it is rolling out a system update to the PH-1 smartphone that includes the February 2018 security patch from Google. Essential pushes updates to the PH-1 regularly and has recently made improvements to the camera. The security update should reach all devices over the next few days.

Google Turning On Pixel Visual Core in All Pixel 2 Handsets

Feb 5, 2018, 12:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is fully activating the Pixel Visual Core co-processor in its newer Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones. The Pixel Visual Core allows the Pixel 2 devices to make use of advanced machine learning to improve HDR+ photography. The primary benefit is that third-party apps will be able to take advantage of Google's imaging technology to boost results. As such, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Snapchat are among the first to tap into the Pixel Visual Core. People who use the cameras within these applications should see better performance, particularly with respect to balanced exposure in high-contrast environments. In addition to HDR+, the Pixel Visual Core also runs RAISR for more detail in zoomed shots, and ensures there's zero shutter lag so the phone captures pictures the instant users press the button. Third-party app developers are encouraged to put Google's new API to use in order to fully take advantage of the Pixel Visual Core in their apps. Google says the Pixel Visual Core will be enabled along with the February security patch. The update should hit the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL in the next few days. Last, Google says it is bringing more augmented reality stickers to the Pixel camera app. People will be able to dress up photos and videos with winter sports-themed stickers, such as ice skaters, hockey players, and skiers. The new AR stickers will arrive later this week.

Google's YouTube TV Apps Reach Apple TV and Roku Devices

Feb 2, 2018, 8:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has made its over-the-top streaming video service, YouTube TV, easier to access from television sets thanks to dedicated set-top-box applications. Owners of the Apple TV product and select Roku streaming devices will find the new YouTube TV app and service available directly from their TV box. YouTube TV launched during the second quarter of 2017 and only supported television sets via casting from mobile devices. Now, subscribers will be able to bypass their mobile device and use the service more easily. YouTube TV is available in more than 100 markets around the country and offers live TV and unlimited online DVR access. Content is limited to about 50 channels, though several premium add-ons, such as HBO, are available for an extra monthly fee.

Google Assistant for Home Products Works with More Media

Feb 1, 2018, 1:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made its Google Assistant even more powerful with a handful of new functions. First, the Assistant for Google Home speakers can now easily set personalized alarms. People can specify which song, artist, playlist, or radio station plays at the appointed time, rather than a traditional alarm. Google Home also adds tools for managing video content. People can ask Google for information regarding what channel their favorite show plays on, set reminders to watch that show, and use voice casting to tune in at the right time on YouTube TV. Google worked with Netflix to improve its voice-based integration with the popular video service. Google Assistant can take advantage of voice matching to ensure Netflix opens the proper user profile. For example, one person in a household can say “Hey Google, play Stranger Things on Netflix" and it will recognize the voice and open the appropriate Netflix profile. Users will have to train Assistant on their Google Home products to recognize the difference voices. Last, Google Assistant now gives Google Play Music subscribers access to their entire uploaded library. People can easily request to hear all the music purchased from or uploaded to their Play Music account. These features are available to the Google Home, Google Home Mini, and Google Home Max speakers.

Google's Lightweight YouTube Go App Expands to More Countries

Feb 1, 2018, 12:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made its data-saving YouTube Go mobile application available to a much wider selection of countries around the world. The app had been available in about 15 countries, but that number jumped to 130 thanks to today's expansion. YouTube Go functions regardless of connectivity status and gives users fine-grained control over data usage. It also strives to be locally relevant. Google says YouTube Go's home screen highlights trending and popular videos in the user's area. People can see a short preview of each video before choosing to play the entire thing. This can help cut down on data usage. The app supports downloading via WiFi so videos can be played back when offline. YouTube Go allows people to dial in the exact resolution they want so they can save data when out and about, and then enjoy high-definition content when connecting via WiFi. Moreover, the app lets people share videos with friends and family without using any data. The latest update makes it possible to share more than a single video at once. The app adds a pull-to-refresh tool that delivers personalized recommendations. Last, YouTube Go supports notifications so people can opt to be alerted when their favorite channels publish new videos. YouTube Go is free to download.

Google Joins Group Behind Open Stylus Standard

Feb 1, 2018, 11:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google this week added its name to a growing number of companies that support an open active stylus standard. It officially joined the Universal Stylus Initiative along with 3M Lattice Semiconductor, Maxeye Smart Technologies, MyScript, and Tactual Labs. The USI, which released its first specification last year, says it now has more than 30 member-contributors. The organization was formed in 2015 for the express purpose of developing and promoting an open industry specification for an active stylus. The USI 1.0 specification lets hardware makers take advantage of the non-proprietary active stylus protocol. It ensures compatibility between devices made by different companies. In other words, consumers will be able to buy a stylus made by one company and be confident that it will work on the hardware made by another company. The spec also introduced the ability for multiple styluses to work together on a single screen, and it can handle up to 4,096 points of pressure to enable a variety of use cases. The USI 1.0 spec can be implemented on phones, tablets, computers, and other touch-based platforms.

Google Flights to Predict Delays

Jan 31, 2018, 2:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today improved its Google Flights tool by adding the ability to predict flight delays. The company is pairing historical flight data with machine learning algorithms to determine delays before the airline itself can. Google said it will only flag delays when it is 80% confident the flight will be postponed. People can simply search for their flight by number or route to see information regarding the flight’s timeliness. In another update to Google Flights, the tool will now provide people with more information about fares, such as whether or not they include baggage fees or the ability to select seats when booking. This tool is first available to Delta, American, and United. The new features are built into the latest version of Google Flights.

Google's Bulletin App Lets Everyone Be a Local Reporter

Jan 26, 2018, 9:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is testing a new application called Bulletin, a way for people to contribute stories about their own community. The free app lets people capture photos, videos, and text on their phone and then publish those microstories directly to the web without forcing people to create a blog or build any sort of web site. Google believes Bulletin can help communities highlight stories that aren't be told in regional newspapers or larger news sites. Stories published on Bulletin are public and easy to find via Google Search, social networks, and direct links. Bulletin relies on smartphones and no setup is necessary. The idea is to let more people share in creating the voice of their community. Google is testing Bulletin via limited pilots in Nashville, Tenn., and Oakland, Calif. People who live in those markets can request early access to the program.

Google's Files Go Storage App Now Works with Tablets

Jan 26, 2018, 8:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has improved the reach of its Files Go app, a utility that's meant to help people manage the limited storage space of mobile devices. First, the app is now compatible with SD cards. Users can filter through and locate files stored on SD cards with a simple tap in the file finder. Second, Files Go now runs on tablets. The app functions the same way on Android slates as it does on Android smartphones, making it possible to share files from one device to the other simply and quickly. Third, and last, Files Go users can now customize which apps open specific files. A new "open with" flow gives people more control over the way files interact with other applications. Google believes these new features will improve the experience of managing device-side storage. Files Go is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Google Will Let You Stop Ads from Following You Around the Web

Jan 25, 2018, 2:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is rolling out new controls for managing advertisements that appear in apps and on mobile web sites. Moving forward, people will be able to use the ad preferences settings to put the kibosh on reminder ads that often show up after user's search for specific products. Google says the tool is first reaching the mobile web and will soon expand to YouTube, Search, and Gmail in the coming months. Further, Google is improving the "mute this ad" function in several ways. First, the tool will now be smart enough to cease showing ads that were first muted on a smartphone on the same user's laptop or tablet (as long as they are signed into their Google account.) Second, the mute this ad tool will become more widely available, including within more apps and partner web sites so people can take control over their browsing experience. These tools can be managed in the Google Dashboard.

Android Wear to Gain Android 8 Oreo Notification Dots

Jan 25, 2018, 1:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated the Android Wear SDK for developers and revealed several new features that are headed to its smartwatch platform later this year. Primarily, Android Wear will add a notification indicator to all watch faces. The indicator will appear as a small dot at the bottom of the watch face. The dot indicator will be displayed by default if/when there are unread notifications in any app on the watch. Developers can use the Android Wear SDK 2.2.0 and revised emulator to ensure the dot works with the design of their app. Google says developers can disable the notification dot for their watch face or app if it doesn't fit with their design. Those who choose to use it can configure the color of the dot and ring to suit their needs. Android Wear SDK 2.2.0 makes improvements to permission handling with a revised ComplicationDrawable mechanism, and developers will have more control over how complications are refreshed on the watch face. For example, developers can choose to refresh their face every minute, rather than every second, which should help with battery life and rendering images within the complication. Google says these and other features will be available to end users in Android Wear 2.9 later this year. For now, developers can download the refreshed SDK and make use of the added tools as they update their smartwatch apps.

Chrome 64 for Android Stops Ads from Opening New Tabs

Jan 25, 2018, 9:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google this week made Chrome 64 available to Android devices and added several new tools to the mobile browser. Primarily, Chrome 64 prevents web sites with aggressive advertisements from opening new windows or tabs without the user's permission. Google says the refreshed browser also gains stability and performance improvements. Chrome 64 will reach all users over the next few weeks. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Project Fi Subscribers Gain Smart Replies in Android Messages App

Jan 24, 2018, 4:43 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is bringing the smart reply feature from its Gmail app to the Android Messages app. The tool automatically generates several responses to incoming messages, which users can select and send with a single tap. The feature will first reach Android Messages on Project Fi smartphones. That includes Nexus and Pixel handsets running Android 8.x Oreo. Google didn't say if or when smart replies would reach Android Messages on other devices. The update is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Chrome to Support HDR Video Playback

Jan 23, 2018, 5:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today provided an update on the progress it has made with the Chrome browser over the last year and offered a peek at some features that will arrive later this year. To start, Chrome now supports play/pause, rewind, and fast forward controls for audio and video. The browser handles picture-in-picture playback on Android, and improved audio/video controls on both the lock screen and notification shade. The browser is able to mute web sites and soon will let people customize which sites are allowed to autoplay audio and video content. Google has already begin adding support for high dynamic range video content to Chrome for Windows 10 devices, and will expand HDR video playback to more platforms soon. HDR content of course offers more vibrant colors and darker blacks. Last, Google is prepared for the official release of virtual reality on the web, which it has been testing for the better part of a year. Google said HDR video and VR are coming to Chrome later this year. HDR and HDR+ content can be played back on a handful of smartphones, such as the LG V30 and the Samsung Galaxy Note8.

Google Sends Security Patch to Pixel Phones

Jan 19, 2018, 9:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has sent a fresh security patch to the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL handsets. Google says the update "fixes critical bugs and improves the performance and stability" of the Pixel smartphones. The update is about 50 MB and can be downloaded over the air. Google normally issues security patches at the beginning of each month. This mid-month update is atypical. Google has also begun distributing Google Play Services 11.9.74 beta, which contains fixes for the Chromecast WiFi-sapping bug revealed earlier this week. The Play Services update is being pushed in limited numbers. Google hasn't said when the final version of Play Services 11.9.74, with the Chromecast patch, will reach all devices.

Google Says Bug Fix for Chromecast WiFi Issue On the Way

Jan 17, 2018, 5:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Responding to reports of poor WiFi performance in homes with Chromecast devices, Google plans to issue a patch that should resolve the issue. "We’re aware of an issue where Chromecast built-in devices may be affecting WiFi network performance," said Google. "In certain situations, a bug in the Cast software on Android phones may incorrectly send a large amount of network traffic which can slow down or temporarily impact WiFi networks." Google says the bug primarily affects those who have an Android handset and a device with Chromecast built in, such as a Google Home product, running on the same WiFi network. Google says it has identified the problem and will roll out a patch through Google Play Services beginning January 18. Until then, the company suggests people experiencing slow WiFi reboot their Android phone and update their WiFi router's software.

Google to Use Mobile Site Loading Times to Peg Search Rank

Jan 17, 2018, 4:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google says it plans to down-rank mobile web sites that deliver slow loading times. The search giant hopes to improve how mobile search behaves on devices and will prioritize mobile web sites that load quickly over those that do not. Google is calling this the "Speed Update" and it will apply to all web pages, no matter the technology used to build the site. The company is encouraging those who develop mobile web sites to tweak performance in order to keep their ranking higher. (Developers can find guidelines from Lighthouse, PageSpeed Insights, and the Chrome User Experience Report.) Google plans to implement the page speed ranking factor for mobile searches in July 2018.

Google Debuts 'Bill Protection' - Effectively Unlimited Data - for Project Fi

Jan 17, 2018, 1:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 17, 2018, 1:58 PM

Google today rolled out a new plan for its Project Fi wireless service that lets people use more mobile data at a lower cost. Since launch, Project Fi has charged $10 per gigabyte, pro-rated so people pay for exactly the amount of data they use. For example, those who consumed 2.3 GB in a given month were charged $23. This system works well for those who use data sparingly, but it adds up quickly for heavy users. Moving forward, the new Bill Protection plan caps the monthly mobile data expenditure at $60, no matter how much is used. People who exceed 6 GB of data in a given month will still be able to use high-speed data, but once they reach 15 GB in a single billing period they may experience slower speeds. Customers who need more than 15 GB of high-speed data per month can continue to pay the $10-per-gigabyte rate if they wish. Moreover, the unlimited plan still pro-rated data. People who use 1.4 GB of data in a month — even if they're using Bill Protection — will be charged $14 for that data. Last, Bill Protection applies to roaming in more than 135 countries and with data-only SIMs in tablets or laptops. Google says Bill Protection is rolling out today to individual and group plan subscribers. Project Fi is compatible with Google's Nexus and Pixel smartphones, and the Moto X4.

Best of CES 2018

Jan 11, 2018, 4:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman & Rich Brome   updated Jan 11, 2018, 4:53 PM

CES is the world's big consumer tech show. Every year we head out to Vegas to check out everything in person. We honor the standouts with our Best of CES awards. This year, five products really caught our eye.

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Google Assistant Coming to Android Auto, Headphones, More

Jan 9, 2018, 5:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said its Google Assistant is about to be available in far more places than it is today. To start, Google Assistant is headed to Android Auto — both the in-car version and the stand-alone Android app. With Google Assistant available in Android Auto, drivers will be able to listen to their playlists from apps like Spotify or Google Play Music, get quick directions from Google Maps or Waze, and send or receive messages from services like WhatsApp. Google Assistant will soon be available from far more headphones, too. Companies including Jaybird, JBL, LG, and Sony announced Assistant integration with various headphones this week during the Consumer Electronics Show. The experience is optimized for the Google Assistant, which will be easily accessible with the touch of an earbud. Google says Android Assistant is headed to more Android TV devices, as well, including the Nvidia Shield TV, and Sony TVs. Assistant will reach smart TVs from Changhong, Element, Funai, Haier, Hisense, and Westinghouse. Assistant is now compatible with a wider range of smart home products, including some 1,500 devices from 225 brands. Last, Google wants the Assistant's powers to be more obvious to end users. That's why it is calling out Google Actions (similar to Alexa skills) that can be discovered through a new directory. People will be able to explore the Assistant's potential powers from the Assistant app on their Android device or iPhone. The Google Assistant is an AI-powered, voice-activated tool that handles a wide range of queries and requests.

Qualcomm's RF Front End Popular with Phone Makers

Jan 9, 2018, 12:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today said a number of leading handset makers have adopted its radio frequency front-end. Some of the OEMs include Google, HTC, LG, Samsung and Sony Mobile. This means these smartphone manufacturers will rely on Qualcomm's hardware to ensure their devices can talk to wireless networks. This is particularly important for T-Mobile, as the RF front end provides comprehensive 600 MHz band (B71) support. T-Mobile is deploying LTE on its 600 MHz spectrum now and plans to use it for 5G service down the road. The RF front end includes a modem-to-antenna system using the new QPM26xx series gallium arsenide-based power amplifier module. The module contains duplexers, envelope tracker, antenna tuners, antenna switches, and discrete and integrated filter modules. Qualcomm says its RF front end supports features such as Gigabit LTE, 4x4 MIMO and LTE Advanced today, and will evolve to handle 5G technologies in 2019.

Qualcomm Intros Smart Speaker Platform for Amazon, Google, Microsoft

Jan 8, 2018, 6:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm's Smart Audio Platform now supports Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana. The idea is to make it easier for hardware makers to add voice assistant features to their devices, such as smart speakers and other smart home gear. The platform will reduce the time and development cost to bring such functions to various designs for in-home use. In addition to Google Assistant, the Smart Audio Platform includes support for Android Things, Google Cast for audio. and other Google services. "The integrated platform is designed to bring together a unique combination of processing capability, connectivity options, voice user interfaces and premium audio technologies to help meet increasing consumer demand for comprehensively featured, highly intuitive smart speakers," said Qualcomm. The Smart Audio Platform is powered by a quad-core ARM A53 processor and includes Qualcomm's Hexagon Audio DSP, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2 Low Energy with aptX and aptX HD, audio playback for various codecs, far-field microphones, beam forming, echo cancellation, and noise suppression. The Qualcomm Smart Audio Platform with support for Amazon Alexa is already in production, while the Smart Audio Platform for Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana is expected to be generally available in the first half of 2018.

Qualcomm's Latest Bluetooth Module Targets Voice Assistants

Jan 8, 2018, 6:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today announced the Low Power Bluetooth SoC QCC5100 Series module for wearables and hearables. The SoC is meant to empower small form factor hardware by reducing power requirements and adding advanced features at the same time. The module runs on a dual-core, 32-bit processor with Qualcomm's Kalimba DSP Audio subsystem. It supports high-fidelity music and call playback with aptX, aptX HD, Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo (for fully wireless earbuds), and enhanced active noise cancellation. Moreover, it bakes in support for voice assistant services from Amazon (Alexa), Google (Assistant), and Microsoft (Cortana) with low-power wake word detection. Other specs include Bluetooth 5.0 and 2 Mbps Bluetooth Low Energy support, embedded memory and storage for music, integrated amplifier, and developer tools for hardware makers to put to work in their designs. Qualcomm claims the SoC is very efficient, reducing power consumption by 65% for voice calls and music streaming. Qualcomm expects designs based on the QCC5100 Series will reach the market during the first half of the year.

Google Folds Google Wallet and Android Pay Into Google Pay

Jan 8, 2018, 11:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today took steps to simplify its mobile and online payment products by combining them into a single service called Google Pay. Moving forward, Google Pay will encompass the features of Google Wallet and Android Pay. Google expects people will use Google Pay to make payments online and via mobile devices, and even to pay friends directly. Google says Google Pay is already available in some apps and web sites, including (but not limited to) Airbnb, Dice, Fandango, HungryHouse, and Instacart. Google expects Google Pay to become more widely available quickly, as developers don't have to do too much to alter their existing Google Wallet- and Android Pay-backed services for full Google Pay integration. Google didn't say if or when a new Google Pay mobile app will reach Android handsets.

Internet Association to Fight FCC's Net Neutrality Repeal

Jan 6, 2018, 5:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Internet Association plans to fight the FCC's attempt to repeal net neutrality. The FCC this week published the final version of its Report & Order to sack the Obama-era laws that govern the internet. The FCC seeks to reclassify broadband internet under Title I of the Communications Act as a private service, rather than as a utility under Title II. The FCC also plans to ditch the bright-line rules that prohibit throttling, blocking, and prioritization. In response, the Internet Association said, "The final version of Chairman Pai’s rule, as expected, dismantles popular net neutrality protections for consumers. This rule defies the will of a bipartisan majority of Americans and fails to preserve a free and open internet. IA intends to act as an intervenor in judicial action against this order and, along with our member companies, will continue our push to restore strong, enforceable net neutrality protections through a legislative solution." Members of IA include internet giants Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix, Spotify, eBay, Twitter, Pandora, PayPal, and others.

OnePlus Debuts Sandstone White Color for 5T

Jan 4, 2018, 10:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

OnePlus today announced a new color for the OnePlus 5T: sandstone white. The new shade will be available for order starting January 9. It will only be sold in the 8 GB of RAM / 128 GB of storage configuration at a cost of $559. The phone has the same Snapdragon 835 processor, dual-camera array, and 2:1 screen of the black model. In other OnePlus news, the company recently introduced a new app called Switch that's meant to help people transfer content from one phone to another. Switch can migrate contacts, messages, call logs, photos, videos, audio, and apps. OnePlus hopes to add support for WiFi history, camera settings, app data, and more down the road. Switch is free to download from the Google Play Store.

LG Packs Google Assistant Into Its Smart ThinQ Speaker

Dec 28, 2017, 8:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today showed off a new smart speaker that will be available in early 2018. LG is calling the ThinQ Speaker its "first premium smart AI audio product" thanks to the addition of the Google Assistant. With Assistant on board, the Thinq Speaker will behave a lot like the Google Home product by performing voice-based searches. In addition to playing music, the ThinQ Speaker can interact with LG's other smart home appliances, such as television sets, air purifiers, and refrigerators. LG says the speaker includes Meridian Audio technology to ensure support for high-quality, lossless file playback for the best possible sound. LG will share more information about the ThinQ Speaker during its CES press conference scheduled for January 8. Google is encouraging its hardware partners to put Google Assistant, which first launched on mobile devices, in a variety of products. Amazon has done the same with its Alexa artificial intelligence.

Verizon's Moto Z2 Force Scores Android 8 Oreo Upgrade

Dec 22, 2017, 9:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today began rolling out the Android 8 Oreo system update to the Motorola Moto Z2 Force. In addition to the core Oreo features, including notification dots and picture-in-picture, the update makes improvements to productivity, performance, and notifications. For example, apps should now run quicker and smoother. The update also include Google's new rounded emoji characters and a new calling screen in the phone app. The update can be downloaded and installed over the air.

Eric Schmidt, Alphabet Chairman, to Take Advisory Role

Dec 22, 2017, 8:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt this week said he plans to step down from his leadership role on the company's board and will instead serve as a technical advisor to the company. "Larry, Sergey, Sundar and I all believe that the time is right in Alphabet’s evolution for this transition. The Alphabet structure is working well, and Google and the Other Bets are thriving," said Schmidt. "In recent years, I’ve been spending a lot of my time on science and technology issues, and philanthropy, and I plan to expand that work." Alphabet is the umbrella organization that serves as parent to Google and other divisions. Google founders Larry Page, now CEO of Alphabet, and Sergei Brin will remain in their respective roles, as will Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google. The change will go into effect in January 2018. Google didn't say who might replace Schmidt. He served as Google's CEO from 2001 to 2011.

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