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printed April 30, 2017
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Blu R1 Plus Includes 5.5-Inch Screen, 4,000mAh Battery

Friday, 1:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Blu today announced the R1 Plus, an update to the R1 HD. The Plus builds on the R1 HD's foundation with a larger 5.5-inch 720p HD screen with curved edges and Gorilla Glass 3. The R1 Plus is powered by a 1.3 GHz quad-core MediaTek 6737 processor with the Mali T720 GPU. It ships with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. Both the 13-megapixel main camera and the 5-megapixel front camera have flashes for low-light shooting. The selfie camera has an 84-degree wide field of view. The R1 Plus improves the battery capacity to 4,000mAh, which Blu says delivers more than a full day of use. This dual-SIM phone is being sold unlocked with support for the GSM/LTE networks of AT&T/Cricket, T-Mobile/MetroPCS, and others. The phone supports VoLTE and HD Voice when used on T-Mobile's network. Other specs include Bluetooth 4, GPS, WiFi, and an FM radio. The R1 Plus runs Android 6 Marshmallow, though Blu says an update to Android 7 Nougat is in the works. The Blu R1 Plus goes on sale via Amazon and BestBuy Saturday, April 29. The phone normally costs $160, but Blu is offering it for $110 during its first 24 hours of availability online.


Google to Let Anyone Build Assistant Into their Hardware

Thursday, 12:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released an SDK that developers can use to add the Google Assistant to all manner of different gadgets and devices. Assistant made its debut in the Allo messaging app, and later arrived on Pixel smartphones, Google Home, Android Wear smartwatches, and other hardware. These have the distinction of all being Google-made products. Thanks to the new SDK, developers, tinkerers, and device makers of all kinds will be able to bring Google Assistant to their gear, for example, Smart Mirrors. Google says this initial SDK is a preview and not everything will work. For example, it is still working to include features such as hotword support. Developers interested in Assistant should visit Google's developer web site.


GBoard for Android Adds Editing and Customization Tools

Thursday, 7:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

GBoard for Android gained a handful of helpful new features thanks to a fresh update from Google. The keyboard application now comes with a dedicated text editing mode that includes buttons for common actions such as copy, cut, and paste. Moreover, cursor control has been refined and is simpler to use. These tools can be reached by pressing the G button. Gboard now also allows users to resize the keyboard and reposition it on the screen for improved one-handed use. This can be particularly helpful on phones with large screens. Last, GBoard adds a significant number of new Indic languages, including Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, and Gujarati, complete with transliteration. Google says machine learning has helped it expand GBoard to a total of 185 languages, all with glide-typing support. GBoard for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Unlocked BlackBerry Keyone Goes On Sale May 31; Sprint Version Arrives This Summer

Thursday, 5:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

TCL today announced that the BlackBerry Keyone, a smartphone it developed with BlackBerry Mobile, will be available to U.S. buyers starting May 31. The handset includes a 4.5-inch touch display and full QWERTY keyboard. Other features include a Snapdragon 625 processor, 12-megpixel camera, LTE, and Android 7.1 Nougat with BlackBerry Hub and BlackBerry Messenger. TCL plans to sell both the unlocked GSM and CDMA variants of the phone directly to consumers online for $549. The company noted that Sprint will sell the phone with service plans later this summer. TCL said more details about the Sprint version will be shared towards the end of May.


FCC Chairman Pai Takes First Steps to Reverse Net Neutrality

Wednesday, 2:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Ajit Pai, Chairman of the FCC, today outlined his plan to remove the Title II classification from broadband services and kill off net neutrality laws put in place by the Commission two years ago. In a sometimes fiery and heavily partisan statement, Pai suggested that the previous Commission made an incredible mistake by re-classifying broadband under Title II and installing bright line rules that could not be broken. Pai claims these changes reduced investment in infrastructure by billions of dollars, prevented the formation of more than 100,000 jobs, and reduced choice for Americans. Pai will publish a Notice of Prosed Rulemaking on April 27 with the full context of his plan, allowing the public a chance to view it before it is adopted by the Commission. Among his goals are to re-classify broadband as a Title I information service and return the FCC's regulatory behavior to the "light-touch" environment he says the internet enjoyed between 1996 and 2015. Pai suggests this path will improve internet speeds, create jobs, foster innovation, and protect consumers' privacy. "We need rules that focus on growth and infrastructure investment, rules that expand high-speed internet access everywhere and give Americans more online choice, faster speeds, and more innovation. And we are going to deliver," said Pai. Some industry groups and companies were quick to commend Pai for the new direction he is taking the FCC, while a number of other businesses vowed to fight Pai's agenda as fiercely as possible.


Google Trips Refreshed with More Manual and Automatic Controls

Wednesday, 1:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced several new features for its Google Trips tool. Trips already will automatically create travel cards based on user emails with flight, hotel, and car reservations. The new version of Google Trips now lets people simply and manually enter new details for these and other aspects of their trip, in addition to freeform travel notes, to accommodate last-minute changes. Travel cards can be shared directly with others via email so everyone has access to the trip details ahead of time. Trips gains better access to bus and train travel data, too, and can save previous trips, routes, and time schedules to help people plan new adventures. Last, Trips now allows people to download their travel data to their handset for offline access. Google Trips is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Google Assistant Can Help You Channel Your Inner Julia Child

Wednesday, 11:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Google Home product with the ability to walk people through various recipes. Google Assistant can dictate step-by-step cooking instructions for more than 5 million recipes. Google says people need only pick a recipe from the Google Search app on their iOS or Android smartphone and hit the new "Send to Google Home" button to save the recipe to their Google Assistant. The recipe can be recalled anytime on the Google Home by using the "Ok Google, start cooking" command. Google Home will then guide people through the recipe until it is done. People will be able to ask questions about specific steps along the way, as well as listen to music, make measurement conversions, set timers, and more. Google said the new feature is being rolled out over the next few weeks. Google didn't say if the recipe tool will be available from Android smartphones that include Google Assistant.


Google Maps Improves Parking Spot Finder

Wednesday, 11:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has this week made good on previous promises to make it easier for people to locate their cars after parking them. Maps for Android and iOS is being updated with a dedicated "Save Your Parking" tool that lets people not only pinpoint the location of their car on a map, but add details such as floor level, section, or parking spot for large parking structures. Further, Maps users can set timers to coincide with parking meters complete with custom alerts before the meter runs out. Last, people will also be able to share their parking location with others in instances that require people to meet at a parked car. On iOS devices connected to cars via Bluetooth, Maps will automatically record the parking spot when the owner disconnects and walks away from the vehicle. Google Maps has offered rudimentary parking spot help for some time. These new features allow people to take more control and add details that Maps didn't previously offer. Google Maps for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.


Chrome for Android Speaks More Languages

Tuesday, 3:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced several improvements headed to its Chrome browser for Android devices. Primarily, the newest version of Chrome is better at translating languages. Google says Chrome is gaining neural machine translation for nine more language pairs including to and from English for Indonesian and eight Indian languages: Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, and Telugu. Google says neural machine translation will improve how web sites in English read when translated to these languages. Chrome for Android is also improving the behavior of downloads and making it easier to manage the app's browsing history. Chrome for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Sprint Offering Fifth Unlimited Line for Free

Tuesday, 12:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today made it more affordable for large families to enjoy its Unlimited Freedom service. Moving forward, the fifth line added to an Unlimited Freedom plan will be free. Sprint charges $50 per month for a single line of unlimited data, talk and text. Two lines cost $80 per month, four lines cost $120 per month, and now five lines also cost $120 per month. Sprint's Unlimited Freedom plans to face some serious caveats. To start, these monthly prices are only available through June 30, 2018. After that time subscribers will see monthly prices jump to $60 for a single line, $100 for two lines, and $130 for three-five lines. Further, these prices all reflect a $5 discount per line when the subscriber enrolls in AutoPay. Sprint's Unlimited Freedom plan allows for full HD video streaming, 1.5 Mbps music streaming, and gaming at up to 8 Mbps, but customers will see their speeds slowed when the network is congested.


Verizon Debuts $80 Unlimited Plan for Prepaid Service

Tuesday, 12:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 3:56 PM

Verizon Wireless today added an unlimited data option to its series of prepaid plans. According to Verizon's web site, the new $80 plan includes unlimited high-speed service without a contract, though video is capped at 480p and prepaid customers may see slower speeds when the network is congested. Moreover, the plan does not include mobile hotspot or tethering, nor did Verizon say just how fast its unlimited prepaid LTE service is. The plan also includes unlimited talk and text in the U.S., unlimited messaging from the U.S. to 200 countries, and unlimited talk to Canada and Mexico. For those who don't need unlimited service, Verizon's other prepaid plans include 2 GB for $40 per month, 5 GB for $50 per month, or 10 GB for $70 per month. These plans all include carryover data, but will throttle customers who exceed their monthly data bucket. The new $80 unlimited prepaid plan is available starting today.


AT&T Says '5G Evolution' to Reach 20 Markets This Year

Tuesday, 10:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 10:56 AM

AT&T said customers who own the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ will have access to enhanced wireless service in Austin starting today. Austin serves as the first market for what AT&T is calling "5G Evolution" service, an effort to modernize and improve its network ahead of the official adoption of the 5G specification by international standards bodies. AT&T plans to take advantage of improved LTE 4G network technologies such as small cells, network densification, carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO, and 256 QAM to provide real-world speed and latency improvements. The company didn't provide any guidance on what sort of speeds S8 and S8+ owners in Austin will actually experience other than to indicate 5G Evolution will be up to twice as fast as its existing LTE 4G service. AT&T will light up 5G Evolution in Indianapolis this summer with markets including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, San Francisco, and others to go live by the end of the year. Further, AT&T said it will have "numerous other" 5G Evolution-capable devices available by the end of the year. All four major carriers are moving forward with 5G technology trials despite the fact that the final standard has not been ratified. AT&T's so-called 5G Evolution is "5G" in name only.


Inexpensive ZTE Prestige 2 Hits Boost and Virgin Mobile

Tuesday, 9:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint's prepaid brands Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile today launched the ZTE Prestige 2, an entry-level Android handset. The Prestige 2 has a 5-inch FWVGA display and it is powered by a 1.1 GHz quad-core processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone has two 5-megapixel cameras, one on the front and one on the back. The main camera has a flash. Other specs include a 2,035mAh battery, memory card support, HD voice, roaming in Mexico, mobile hotspot, and LTE 4G. The phone costs $80, but Boost Mobile is selling it online for $52. Virgin Mobile is offering the ZTE Prestige 2 for $50. It runs Android 6 Marshmallow.


U.S. Cellular Lands the 6-Inch ZTE Blade Max 3

Tuesday, 9:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

U.S. Cellular recently added the ZTE Blade Max 3 to its roster of Android smartphones. The Max 3 is similar to the Max XL in that it has a 6-inch full HD display with 2.5D Gorilla Glass and huge 4,000mAh battery. The handset is powered by a 2 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 625 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage. The Max 3 includes dual rear 13-megapixel cameras, with one that captures full color and one that captures black-and-white to assist with contrast and focus. The user-facing camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Other features include a rear-mounted fingerprint reader, high-fidelity audio, USB-C, memory card support, and GPS, Bluetooth, and WiFi radios. The ZTE Blade Max 3 is available from U.S. Cellular's web site for $200.


ZTE Max XL Packs 6-Inch Full HD Screen for $130

Tuesday, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today announced the Max XL, a big-screened Android smartphone headed to Boost Mobile. The Max XL's defining features are the 6-inch full HD display and massive 3,990mAh battery. The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass. ZTE says the Max XL is also the first for Boost Mobile to include support for HPUE for better LTE speeds at the network edge. HPUE is a technology Boost Mobile parent company Sprint is working to deploy this year. The Max XL's main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor, while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. The device runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat and includes a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. Other specs include an octa-core 1.4 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage, support for memory cards, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and FM radio. The ZTE MAX XL smartphone is available online today at Boost Mobile for $129.99.

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LG G6 vs. Samsung Galaxy S8: Buying Points to Consider

Apr 24, 2017, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Can't decide between the LG G6 and Samsung Galaxy S8? It's a tough choice, to be sure. These appealing Android smartphones represent the best from LG and Samsung by breaking new ground in design and refining core features along the way. Here are how these two phones compare head-to-head on a handful of essential buying points.

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Google to Automatically Translate Local Reviews

Apr 24, 2017, 12:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said travelers will have access to a wider range of local reviews thanks to new translation features. Moving forward, Google said it will automatically translate reviews of restaurants, theaters, and other locations into the language you’ve set on your device. The translated reviews will be followed by the original. This feature is available to Google Search and Google Maps.


Apple Spits Out Fourth Round of iOS, WatchOS Betas

Apr 24, 2017, 12:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 10.3.2 Beta 4 available to developers. Apple hasn't provided any specific details about what's in iOS 10.3.2; it likely focuses on resolving bugs and smoothing over performance issues. Apple also made fourth betas of watchOS 3.2.2, macOS Sierra 10.12.5, and tvOS 10.2.1 available to developers. Apple hasn't indicated if or when these new in-progress operating systems will be released to public beta testers. Public betas typically drop a day or two after the developer betas. Consumers interested in testing pre-release software will need to register their Apple device, such as the iPhone 7, in order to receive beta builds of iOS and other platforms.


Sony's Mid-Range Xperia XA1 Goes On Sale May 1 for $300

Apr 24, 2017, 10:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today announced the XA1 will be available to purchase online starting May 1. Internet retailers including Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, BrandsMart, Fry’s, and others will offer the phone unlocked for $299.99. The XA1, announced earlier this year, has a 5-inch 720p screen and 2,300mAh battery. It is powered by a MediaTek octa-core Helio P20 processor with the Mali T880 GPU accompanied by 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The device supports microSD memory cards up to 256 GB. It has a 23-megapixel Exmor RS main camera with a 24mm lens and an aperture of f/2.0, and an 8-megapixel selfie cam. Other specs include USB-C, Qnovo adaptive charging, rapid charging, Cat 6 LTE, and Android 7 Nougat. It is being offered in white, black, pink, or gold.


Samsung to Issue Software Patches for Galaxy S8

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

Samsung today said it will push two software updates to its Galaxy S8 smartphone to resolve issues with screen tint and WiFi connectivity. Some S8 owners claim their devices have a reddish tint to the screen, while others say they cannot connect to WiFi networks. Samsung insists there are no actual defects in the device itself and that the updates are being distributed "for consumer comfort." The first patch will address the tint issue, giving consumers "a further enhanced ability to adjust the color setting to their preference." The second patch targets phones sold by a specific carrier in South Korea and will be only be issued there. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ went on sale in the U.S. on April 21 and in S. Korea a few days before that. Samsung says pre-orders for the device have been strong, particularly in its home market of Korea. The company did not share first-weekend sales figures. The phones are the first high-end devices to ship from Samsung after its failed Note7 last year, which was recalled due to battery problems.


Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Amp Prime 2 Available from Cricket

Apr 21, 2017, 9:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today added two new Samsung handsets to its list of devices. First, the Galaxy S8 is available for purchase from Cricket stores. Cricket is charging $699.99 for the handset, a $50 savings off list price, when the S8 is activated on a new line. Second, Cricket debuted the Galaxy Amp Prime 2 (pictured), a low-cost Android phone. The Amp Prime 2 features a 5-inch 720p HD screen with a 1.35 GHz quad-core processor and 16 GB of storage. The phone includes 5- and 2-megapixel cameras on the back and front respectively, and a 2,600 mAh battery. Other features include LTE, Bluetooth WiFi, and support for memory cards up to 256 GB. The Samsung Galaxy Amp Prime 2 runs Android 7 Nougat and costs $150.


Google Play Music to Be Default Music Player on All Samsung Devices

Apr 21, 2017, 9:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google and Samsung today said starting with the launch of the Galaxy S8 and S8+, Google Play Music will be the default music player and music service on Samsung phones and tablets globally. Consumers who buy the S8 or S8+ will receive a free three-month trial of Google Play Music, which offers ad-free access to some 40 million tracks. The trial also includes YouTube Red, an ad-free version of YouTube. Moreover, Samsung device owners will receive special features from Google. To start, S8 and S8+ buyers will be able to upload up to 100,000 of their own tracks to Google Play Music for safekeeping (double the standard amount.) Google says more custom features for Samsung phones are on the way. Last, Google Play Music will be compatible with Samsung's Bixby voice assistant when Bixby launchers later this spring. Galaxy S8 and S8+ owners will be able to ask Bixby to play their favorite song and it’ll start playing on Google Play Music instantly. The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ go on sale today.


Apple to Help Make Live Photos More Shareable On the Web

Apr 20, 2017, 12:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released a new tool for developers that should make it easier for people to share their Live Photos with others. Specifically, the company made available the LivePhotoKit JS API. Apple says, "This new JavaScript-based API makes it easy to embed Live Photos on your web sites. In addition to enabling Live Photos on iOS and macOS, you can now let users display their Live Photos on the web." Live Photos, which are essentially short moving pictures, can be shared between iOS and macOS devices, but not so easily across platforms. Google solved this problem with its own Motion Stills app for iOS, which lets iPhone owners turn Live Photos into web-compatible GIFs. Apple says it will be up to individual developers and web sites to put the LivePhotoKit JS API to use on their own sites. Until they do, Google's Motion Stills app remains a viable alternative.


Lenovo Says Bug Preventing Moto G Plus from Making 911 Calls On Verizon

Apr 20, 2017, 12:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Lenovo issued a notice this week warning that the Moto G5 Plus may not be able to connect 911 calls via VoLTE on Verizon's wireless network. The company has identified the bug and expects to issue a software patch in the next week or so. Until then, Lenovo suggests owners of the Moto G5 Plus disable VoLTE calling. This will enable the G5 Plus to make regular cellular calls to 911, though Lenovo reminds people that this will prevent Verizon customers from using voice and data at the same time.


Google Home Now Recognizes Individual Voices

Apr 20, 2017, 11:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made it possible for up to six people to get personalized results from its Google Home product. Using the refreshed Google Home mobile app, Home owners can train the device to recognize individual voices for everyone in your house. Google says it is able to do this through the use of neural networks. Once properly trained, people will be able to ask Google Home for their daily schedule, preferred news, commute details, and personal playlists. The functionality requires the latest Home app from Google on each associated account. This feature will start rolling out today for Google Home users in the U.S., but will expand to the U.K. in the coming months. Google Home is a $129 in-home connected speaker that relies on the same Google Assistant app found on Android handsets.


Sprint Offering Two-For-One Lease On Samsung Galaxy S8

Apr 20, 2017, 11:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today finalized its retail plans for the Samsung Galaxy S8 and there's good news for consumers. The company is offering a two-for-one lease deal on the S8 with a new line activation and one upgrade, or two new line activations. New and existing customers can lease the S8 for $31.25 per month and receive a second leased phone at no additinal cost. The second monthly lease payment will be credited to the account each billing period. The Sprint Galaxy Forever lease program allows people to trade the phone in for the newest Galaxy handset after making 12 lease payments. The S8 and S8+ are both compatible with Sprint's new HPUE technology, which makes them perform much better on the company's 2.5 GHz spectrum. Sprint says this two-for-one lease deal for the Galaxy S8 is good only from April 21 through April 27.


Samsung's 2nd-Gen 10nm Process Delivers Performance Boost

Apr 20, 2017, 9:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung this week said it has finished testing its second-generation 10nm FinFET process and is ready to produce the silicon in volume. The 10LPP (Low Power Plus) technology, used in conjunction with 3D transistors, improves speeds by about 10%, or power efficiency by about 15% when compared to the first-generation 10nm process. Some variants of the Samsung Galaxy S8 rely on the first-gen 10nm process in the Exynos 9 processor, though the U.S. model relies on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835. Samsung expects to begin producing the new 10nm 10LPP circuitry by the fourth quarter. The company didn't say what mobile processors might make use of the new technology.


Google Chrome may Block Obnoxious Ads

Apr 20, 2017, 9:27 AM   by Rich Brome

Google is planning to add a limited ad-blocking feature to its Chrome browser for both mobile and desktop platforms, according to the Wall Street Journal. The feature would only block the most obnoxious ads, such as pop-ups, those that auto-play sound, and overlays with a timer before you can view content. These specific ad types have been determined to be "beneath a threshold of consumer acceptability" by the Coalition for Better Ads. Google's plans for the feature are still in flux. Chrome may block only these ad types, or it may block all ads on sites that display some offending ads. The company has not yet announced the feature, and could still decide not to launch it. Google earned $60 billion in revenue last year from online advertising.


Microsoft Will Help You Ditch Passwords

Apr 19, 2017, 12:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has a new tool for Android and iOS device owners to use when signing into Microsoft accounts. The phone sign-in functionality relies on the Microsoft Authenticator. People can add their Microsoft account to either the Android or iOS version of the Microsoft Authenticator mobile app. Then, when signing into a new Microsoft app, people will only have to put in their username. The Authenticator will pop up a notification on users' phones that, once approved, unlocks access to the new app. "This process is easier than standard two-step verification and significantly more secure than only a password, which can be forgotten, phished, or compromised," said Microsoft in a blog post. Microsoft Authenticator is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


ZTE US Mobile Phone Exec Promoted to Global Role

Apr 19, 2017, 7:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today said it appointed Cheng Lixin, the executive behind the company's North American mobile phone business, to run its global mobile phone business. The move comes after ZTE settled with the U.S. government over allegations that it violated international trade sanctions against Iran. ZTE paid a $900 million fine to make the allegations go away. Lixin has led ZTE's mobile efforts in the U.S. since 2010. The company has grown its marketshare in the U.S. during that time thanks to low-cost handsets, which it sells through pre-paid carriers such as Boost Mobile, Cricket Wireless, and MetroPCS. Lixin's predecessor has taken a seat on the company's corporate board. The change is effective immediately. ZTE has not yet named a new executive for the U.S. market.


Instagram for Android Gains Offline Mode

Apr 19, 2017, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram has made it possible for Android device owners to enjoy the app in a limited way even when offline. Speaking at Facebook's F8 developer conference, Instagram staff explained that many users access the app from areas with poor internet connections. Adding support for offline access will allow these people to enjoy the app when connections aren't available. According to TechCrunch, the app will store previously loaded portions of the user's feed locally on the device, including the Explore tab. People will be able to view, like, comment, and share photos, as well as unfollow users and perform other actions that will take hold once the device reconnects to the network. Instagram targeted Android for this mode given the platform's wide global popularity. It is still "exploring" whether or not it will offer offline functionality to iOS devices.


Google Earth VR Gains Search Tool

Apr 18, 2017, 3:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Along with the new Google Earth mobile app for Android devices and Chrome desktop browsers, Google today updated Google Earth VR for Android. Moving forward, people can type addresses or locations in Google Earth VR and they'll be whisked away to any location on the globe. The tool also gains 27 new locations for detailed exploring, such as mountains, glaciers, and castles. Google Earth VR is available to Android handsets for free.


Snapchat Adds 3D Lenses

Apr 18, 2017, 3:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Snapchat today introduced a new way to use its Lenses feature in a way that the company says is more interactive. When using the rear camera, Snapchatters can discover new Lenses that can "paint the word around you with new 3D experiences." These new Lenses include sticker-like animations that float and move around people within Snapchat images. The 3D Lenses are available in an update to the Android and iOS mobile Snapchat app. Snapchat is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.


Facebook Seeks to Improve Bots for People, Brands, and Developers

Apr 18, 2017, 1:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today announced major changes to its Messenger platform that should make bots easier to find and use. To start, Messenger now includes a Discover tab where people can recall recently used bots, as well as use a free-form search field to seek out new bots. Messenger bakes in new support for QR code scanning via mobile device cameras. The idea, says Facebook, is to make it simpler for people to find and interact with bots, particularly when they encounter QR codes when out in the real world. For brands and developers, Messenger gains new chat extensions. These will let everyone in a single group converse with the same bot at the same time. Facebook says this will make it easier to share bots and bot conversations with others. Some early partners in this endeavor include Spotify, TheScore, OpenTable, Food Network, NBA, Wall Street Journal, and Kayak. M, Facebook Messenger's artificial intelligence, receives a boost in capabilities, too. For example, M now makes suggestions within conversations, such as to say "thank you" or set reminders. Last, the new Messenger platform renews its focus on social gameplay. Messenger gains game bots that can play turn-by-turn games with single players, as well as help challenge others to games via Messenger. These features are rolling out to Messenger users in the U.S. first, with other regions to follow.


Huawei Watch 2 Hits Stores Today

Apr 18, 2017, 1:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Huawei today made its new smartwatch, the Watch 2, available from various online retailers for $300. The device runs Android Wear 2.0 from Google and includes GPS, a heart rate monitor, NFC, 420 mAh battery, and a 1.2-inch AMOLED display. The Watch 2 is rated IP68 for water resistance. Huawei says the standard model can be purchased from Best Buy, Target, Jet, Walmart, B&H, and others. The company expects to bring the Watch 2 Classic to the U.S. later this year for $369. Huawei has no plans to bring the LTE variant of the Watch 2 to the U.S. right now.


Google Maps Timeline Feature Travels to iOS Devices

Apr 18, 2017, 1:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made the Timeline tool of Google Maps available to iOS devices. Timeline tracks users' movements based on their location, providing a clear picture of where they've been, for how long, and how they got there. Timelines can be useful for recalling information about unfamiliar places you may have visited, as well as keeping tabs on your favorite locations. Users are in control of what appears in their Timeline. The feature gives people full control over deleting specific locations, routes, days, and even the entire travel history. People can customize their typical mode of transportation, as well as view place cards of locations or businesses they’ve previously visited. Last, Timeline will provide monthly recaps to iOS users via email with summaries of the cities, countries, and places they’ve visited over the previous month. Timeline is optional and can be disabled. Google Maps is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Timeline has been available to Android devices for some time.


Sprint's Roaming Plan Now Includes Free 2G Data

Apr 18, 2017, 12:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today improved its international roaming plan, making it cheaper and more appealing to customers. Sprint customers can now enjoy free 2G data, free text messaging, and $0.20-per-minute voice calls in some 165 countries. Customers who want or need faster mobile data can pay for it on a daily basis directly from their phone. In Canada and Mexico, for example, LTE roaming costs $2 per day or $10 per week, while in most other countries LTE roaming cost $5 per day or $25 per week. Sprint says customers that subscribe to its Unlimited Freedom plan will receive free LTE high-speed data roaming, voice calling, and text messaging while traveling in Canada and Mexico. Sprint customers don't need to do anything ahead of time to take advantage of the free roaming services when traveling.


Android Pay and PayPal Now Play Nice

Apr 18, 2017, 12:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google's Android Pay service is now compatible with PayPal. The companies today announced that Android Pay users can opt to use their PayPal account as a source of funds when making tap-and-go payments at retail stores or on the web. PayPal via Android Pay will stand in for a debit or credit card. People will be able to link their accounts from either app. Android Pay and PayPal will gain this functionality through an update to their respective mobile apps in the coming weeks. Google recently added in-app Android Pay compatibility with several mobile banking apps. The moves are meant to help coax more people to use Google's mobile payment service.


Google Wholly Revamps Google Earth for Desktop and Mobile

Apr 18, 2017, 7:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released a brand new version of Google Earth that it has spent two years crafting. This revised Google Earth is all about giving people more ways to view things thanks to changing perspectives, new zooming behaviors, and, of course, plenty of ways to share. Google Earth now includes Voyager, a tool for exploring and taking guided tours on the planet's most famous locations. For example, Natural Treasures from BBC Earth will take you to caves, jungles, and more, while the refreshed "I’m feeling lucky" search button will randomly select an interesting spot and tell you everything. Maps includes a wider variety of Knowledge Cards that provide details about places around the globe. Google Earth gains more 3D content, as well, allowing people to swoop through the Grand Canyon or check out European castles from every angle. The new Google Earth is available on the web in Google's Chrome browser as well as a new dedicated mobile app for Android devices. Google says it will bring the new Google Earth to iOS and more browsers in the future.


Instagram Debuts Private Collections

Apr 17, 2017, 1:55 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today made saving groups of photos more appealing through a new collections tool. Until today, users could only bookmark favorite photos for later. Now, Instagram makes it possible to create and name new collections of bookmarked posts that are batched together. This applies to both new and existing posts. Instagram says people can cultivate as many collections as they wish, which can be used to tag and manage types and/or styles of photos, as well as the contributions of select people or groups. Collections will remain private to the person who created them. The new collections feature is rolling out to the Android and iOS versions os Instagram over the next week. Instagram is free to download.


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