Uptime, an app that allows people to watch YouTube videos together, is now widely available to iPhone owners. Google initially announced the app, developed by Area 120, in March. Uptime purports to make YouTube more social and interactive. With Uptime installed, people can watch a video, interact and chat, curate favorites, and get daily recommendations together with friends who may be watching from somewhere else. Interactions include stickers, emoji, and other real-time reactions to videos. The app initially required an invite, but is now available to anyone from the App Store.
Google today said it will stop poking through users' inboxes for ad customization purposes. Google has nearly always scanned the emails of its free Gmail users in order to help personalize and suggest advertisements. Google says the forthcoming change will put its free Gmail service in line with its paid G Suite business email. Google contends that ads are shown based on users' settings, which can be adjusted at any time — up to and including disabling ads personalization completely. The change will be put in place later the year. G Suite will continue to operate free of ads.
Google is about to make it easier to watch videos shot in different aspect ratios. With an update scheduled to arrive in the coming weeks, the YouTube mobile app will "dynamically adapt to whatever size you choose to watch it in. That means if you’re watching a vertical, square or horizontal video, the YouTube player will seamlessly adapt itself, filling the screen exactly the way they should." This means videos will automatically fill more of the screen as users move their phones around. Google said changes are coming to the desktop version of YouTube, too, which will focus on simplifying the look and feel of the service. For example, a new Dark Theme will offer a more movie-theater-like appearance to videos. Google is also prepared to expand some sharing tools that make it quicker to share videos directly from the viewing screen. Google didn't say exactly when these changes will reach the mobile and desktop versions of YouTube.
YouTube TV will soon be available to millions more people around the U.S. thanks to a significant expansion of the service. Google today said YouTube TV will reach 10 new markets, including Dallas-Fort Worth, Washington, D.C., Houston, Atlanta, Phoenix, Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, and Charlotte, over the next few weeks. People in these markets will be able to sign up for the $35-per-month service, which includes live TV streaming of local channels, unlimited DVR use, and up to six individual user profiles per account. YouTube says people can register to see when YouTube TV will be available in their markets. The service initially launched earlier this year in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
ZTE today began pushing Android 7.1.1 to its Axon 7 Mini smartphone. Like the same update that reached the larger Axon 7 earlier this year, today's update for the Axon 7 Mini adds support for T-Mobile WiFi Calling; a wider selection of gender-balanced emoji and GIFs; performance improvements to Google's Daydream VR; and the latest security patches. ZTE says it also fixed bugs and tweaked behaviors throughout the operating system. Android 7.1.1 Nougat heralds split-screen multitasking and better power management. People who own the Axon 7 Mini can download the update manually via the system settings tools on their phone or wait for it to arrive over the air.
Google today simplified the process of managing monthly bills for subscribers to its Project Fi wireless service. Starting this week, Project Fi gains a new tool that helps the account manager easily determine what each member of the plan owes and send them a bill. Google says once the feature is enabled, Project Fi can automatically calculate the cost for each individual line. The service supports payment reminders, which it will send to each individual line. Further, Project Fi can accept payments through Google Wallet. Project Fi users need only tap the payment notification they may have received and follow simple steps to send their payment to the account manager. Owners can then cash out the payments to the debit card or bank account of their choice. Google says this new tool is rolling out to all Project Fi subscribers this week. Project Fi is available only to select handsets, including the Nexus 5x and Nexus 6p, and Google Pixel and Pixel XL.
Google today said it will no longer support the Android Market application on devices running Android 2.1 Eclair and older after June 30. Once the change takes place, devices running those operating systems will no longer have access to the Android Market, which was the original app store for Android devices. Google says this will impact only a very small number of users, as the vast majority of Android devices are running much newer builds of the operating system. Google will continue to support the Google Play Store app on devices running Android 2.2 for "as long as feasible." Practically speaking, Android 2.3 Gingerbread is the base operating system to offer full Play Store support via Google Play Services. The bulk of Android users needn't worry about Google's plan to cease supporting Android Market on Android 2.1 Eclair.
Samsung recently seeded a software update to its Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones. The update applies the June security patches from Google, stabilizes memory card performance, and adjusts some user interface elements of Bixby. The update comes in at about 150MB and can be downloaded and installed over the air.
Google today announced the launch of Android Excellence, a new section in the Google Play Store that highlights the best of the best in terms of apps and games. Google says, "The new collections will showcase apps and games that deliver incredible user experiences on Android, use many of our best practices, and have great design, technical performance, localization, and device optimization." Some of the first apps and games highlighted in the section include City Mapper, Evernote, Golf Clash, Hotel Tonight, Kill Shot Bravo, Pictionary, Pocket, Skyscanner, and Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes. The collections will be refreshed on a quarterly basis and will be located in the Editor's Choice section of the Play Store.
Verizon Communications today said it has finalized its purchase of Yahoo. Now that the deal is complete, Verizon is merging its Yahoo and AOL assets into a new media company called Oath. Oath encompasses some 50 brands, including HuffPost, Yahoo Sports, AOL.com, Makers, Tumblr, Build Studios, Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Mail, and many more. Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer, a former Google exec, has resigned effective today. Yahoo's properties will be managed by Tim Armstrong, who already oversees Verizon's AOL business unit. The $4.8 billion deal was first announced in July 2016. The process suffered a major blow when Yahoo disclosed a material security breach that impacted more than 1 billion users. The two companies later agreed to drop the sale price by $350 million, with the final price tag landing at about $4.48 billion. Marni Walden, executive vice president and president of Product Innovation and New Businesses at Verizon, presided over the acquisition. Armstrong will report to her. The company is expected to shed as many as 2,100 jobs as it integrates AOL and Yahoo's properties. Verizon Communications is the parent company of Verizon Wireless.
BlackBerry Mobile today said the Verizon-ready, CDMA model of its KEYone smartphone is available at Best Buy stores. The phone is sold unlocked with support for Verizon's 3G and 4G networks. Earlier versions of the KEYone supported only GSM-based 3G service. The KEYone runs Google's Android operating system with BlackBerry Mobile's security and communications software on board. The phone's defining feature is the physical QWERTY keyboard. It costs $549.
Google today updated its GBoard keyboard application for Android handsets and made it possible for people to draw emoji. In the emoji search tool, GBoard can recognize finger-scrawled pictures and then automatically insert the correct emoji into your text. The keyboard app also introduces phrase suggestions to help speed up texting time. Once users have typed two or more words, the phrase suggestion tool can add several more to complete well-known phrases, such as "looking forward to it." This is available only in English for now, though more languages are on the way. GBoard also picks up expanded search tools. Now, searches performed in GBoard show multiple results cards that can open directly in other apps, such as Google Maps. Last, the app picks up a handful of new languages, pushing to total supported to more than 200. Some of the new ones include: Azerbaijani (Iran), Dhivehi, French (Belgium), Hawaiian, Maori and Samoan. GBoard is free to download from the Play Store.
Google today announced a new tool developers can use to authenticate people securely while simultaneously improving the experience for mobile phone users. The company made available the new reCAPTCHA Android API as a part of Google Play Services. Google says this lets app developers and web sites better tell humans and bots apart from one another, particularly with respect to authentication. The API runs Google's new Invisible reCAPTCHA tech, which runs risk analysis behind the scenes to weed out bots and block spam and other abuses. The API is included with Google SafetyNet so mobile developers can manage both the device and user attestations from the same API. This eliminates risks, according to Google, and is more efficient across the board. For end users, the result will be a less intrusive experience when authenticating within apps and on the mobile web.
Google today released all the tools developers need to create applications and update apps for Android O. The company made the final Android O APIs available through an updated SDK. Developers can grab these tools through Android Studio 3.0. To coincide with the finalized APIs and SDK, Google updated the developer preview of Android O. The Android O Developer Preview 3 can be installed on the Nexus 6p and 5x, Pixel, Pixel XL, and Pixel C, and the Nexus Player. Google says the updated beta should be more stable for use as a developer platform, though it may not be ready for daily use. Some of the core features of Android O include picture-in-picture, notification dots, widget picker, new emoji, and revamped settings tools. The final version is expected to arrive later this summer. Google still has not revealed what dessert the "O" will be.
Google today provided details about its June 2017 security patches for Android devices. The patches, dated June 1 and June 5, plug a significant number of security holes that threaten all Android devices. Google found dozens and dozens of vulnerabilities, of which it classified several as critical, or able to remotely execute code. Many of the problems are related to specific chipsets and the associated software drivers that control them, such as components from MediaTek and Qualcomm. Google is offering the patches directly to Nexus- and Pixel-branded devices first. Google has already posted factory images for download directly from its web site. Google's handsets will receive both patches in a single download. Google said that, as far as it is aware, none of these security holes have been exploited. Google has already given the patches to its OEM partners. Individual phone makers are responsible for updating their own hardware with the patches.
Apple today announced the HomePod, a new in-home speaker similar to the Google Home and Amazon Echo. It features the Siri voice-based assistant and can act on spoken requests with a focus on music. Apple says Siri on the HomePod is able to handle natural-language requests, such as "who's playing drums on this track", "play more songs like thins" and so on. The HomePod focuses on music and works natively with Apple Music. Apple says it developed the HomePod to sound good, understand where it is, provide a fun experience, and more. It has a seven-tweeter array to drive audio in multiple directions and a 4-inch woofer that's upward facing. It is powered by an A8 processor with real-time acoustic modeling, audio beam-forming, and multi-channel echo cancellation. It can sense the size of the room it is in and adjust how it performs in order to fill that space with sound. Apple says HomePod works perfectly with Apple Music, including playlists, artists, albums, and will learn users preferences over time. Some core features include reminders, sports, news, alarms, messages, translations, stocks, traffic, and more. It can also interact with HomeKit devices for adjusting the thermostat, controlling lights, and scenes (which rely on multiple home devices acting together.) The iOS home app can be used to control the HomePod from afar. Apple said it expects to debut the HomePod later this year for $349.
Google today rolled out new features for its Sheets spreadsheet application. Most of the new features target the desktop-based version of Sheets. For example, machine learning makes it possible to ask Sheets questions in a natural way to explore the data contained in any given document. For example, users can ask “what is the distribution of products sold?” or “what are average sales on Sundays?” and Sheets' new Explore function will help find the answers. Google also made it easier to share and/or import data from Google Docs and Google Slides. Other new features include improved keyboard shortcuts, printing previews, and chart editing. On the mobile front, the Apple iPhone and iPad will benefit from some of these improvements. Google says iPhone and iPad owners will be able to create and edits charts in a new sidebar. Mobile users will be able to select their own colors for personalization, and add trend lines to highlight data within charts. Last, iPhones and iPads will be able to create more types of charts, including 3D charts. Sheets for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Google didn't say when the machine learning tools might reach its mobile apps.
Peter Lau, the CEO of OnePlus, said via his Twitter account that the company's top two phones will receive Android O. "A lot of you have been asking, so I'm proud to say Android O will come to OnePlus 3 and 3T," noted Lau. The OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T are the firm's flagship handsets from last year. OnePlus was fairly aggressive at updating the phones from Android 6 Marshmallow to Android 7 Nougat once Google released the newer operating system. Google itself has not indicated when Android O will be released in final form other than to say "this summer." Owners of the OnePlus 3 and 3T should not expect to see the new operating system before late August or early September. OnePlus recently discontinued the 3T as it makes way for its 2017 flagship, the OnePlus 5.
Google says it is using a new method to identify and target phishing attempts within Gmail. Moving forward, Google is using a new algorithm that "flags and delays potentially suspicious messages." Google says this selective delay allows it to spend more time investigating potentially suspicious messages before they are delivered. Google uses the time to perform additional content checks on the message to ensure its authenticity. The delay may last up to four minutes, which Google feels is an acceptable length of time to hold potentially nefarious messages. Emails that remain suspicious after these checks are routed to Gmail users' spam folders. Google says despite its high success rate (99.99%), businesses should continue to use their own anti-phishing and malware services. This change is rolling out to all Gmail users this week.
People who own the Gear VR can now cast content from the headset to their cast-enabled television sets. A fresh software update from Oculus adds Chromecast support to the Gear VR. Selecting the new cast button will call up a list of nearby cast devices, allowing VR users to push their experience to TVs, monitors, and other devices while remaining within their VR environment. Oculus said Samsung handsets should see the software update arrive in the next day or two. Google recently added cast support to its DayDream platform for similar VR sharing.
Twitter today put a small buffer between users and unsolicited direct messages. Moving forward, DMs from people who users don't follow will appear as Requests in the Messages tab. Twitter allows people to accept DMs from those they follow and those who follow back, or from everyone. Leaving DMs open makes it easier for people to reach one another through Twitter, but also leaves users' inboxes unprotected from unsolicited or unwanted messages. People can accept or reject DM requests. Accepting the message allows the DM to go through so the sender and recipient can engage in a private conversation. Twitter says senders won't know the message has been viewed unless the message is accepted. Users can delete unwanted Requests, but that won't necessarily prevent the sender from re-sending the message or attempting to connect down the road unless they are blocked. By default, media included in unsolicited DMs will be hidden unless specifically opened by the recipient. Twitter is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Facebook wants content to be more readable across the web and took steps this week toward that goal by tweaking the SDK for its Instant Articles. Facebook's Instant Articles give publishers a way to streamline content for consumption on mobile devices, but Instant Articles aren't compatible with the mobile-first styles used by Google and Apple. The new Instant Articles SDK includes extensions that will let publishers create content that is compatible with all three formats: Facebook Instant Articles, Google AMP, and Apple News. The SDK includes support for AMP immediately, but won't add Apple News for several weeks. Facebook, Google, and Apple all want publishers to adjust their articles, photos, and videos for mobile devices. Doing so improves usability for phone and tablet owners. It will be up to individual publishers to adopt Facebook's new Instant Articles SDK.
The latest version of Google Photos makes it possible to archive photos for safe, out-of-sight keeping. The tool was added to Google Photos 2.15 for Android devices, though it is not yet available to iOS devices or on the web. The archiving tool now appears within the navigation drawer on the left. A tutorial will walk people through the feature upon first use, after which archived photos can be accessed via the nav drawer. Archiving gives people a way to push photos out of their main feed without deleting them. The pictures are still readily accessible, though they will be out of view unless purposely sought out. The archiving function was first spotted by 9to5Google. Google Photos is free to download from the Google Play Store.
T-Mobile hopes its new "Get Out of the Red" deal will tempt Verizon customers to switch to T-Mobile. T-Mobile is offering to pay the remaining balance on Verizon subscribers' handsets and allow them to use those same handsets on T-Mobile's network. Lots of caveats apply. In order to qualify for the deal, Verizon customers must be in good standing with Big Red and come to T-Mobile with an Apple iPhone SE, 6s, 6s Plus, 7, 7 Plus, Google Pixel, or Pixel XL. These phones have the proper radios to support T-Mobile's LTE network. The company is working to add other devices to the list. Verizon customers will need to port their number to T-Mobile, sign up for a T-Mobile One plan, buy a new T-Mobile SIM card, and sign up for T-Mobile's Premium Device Protection Plus insurance plan for $15 per month. Once all these criteria are met, T-Mobile will pay the remaining balance on the Verizon iPhone or Pixel, whatever that may be. T-Mobile says customers will be reimbursed for their Verizon iPhone/Pixel balances within 15 to 30 days via prepaid MasterCard. T-Mobile is pitching the idea as an easier way to switch carriers as it doesn't require people to backup or transfer content from one phone to another. The offer works with Verizon handsets because by law Verizon's LTE phones must be unlocked. AT&T and Sprint customers cannot take advantage of this offer precisely because their phones are carrier locked. T-Mobile's Get Out of the Red promotion will be available starting May 31. T-Mobile is, however, throwing a bone to AT&T and Sprint customers. T-Mobile said it will pay off the remaining handset balance and/or early termination fee for AT&T/Sprint customers who port a number to T-Mobile and finance a new device on T-Mobile's equipment installment plan. Last, T-Mobile customers who already have two T-Mobile One plans will be able add two additional lines of service for the price of one. This promo requires autopay.
Google today detailed how families can use their Google account to stay connected and in sync with one another. Google already allows people to share media via Google Play Music, Google Play Movies & TV, and Google Play Books. Moving forward, families can take advantage of Google Calendar, Keep, and Photos to manage appointments, tasks, and libraries. For example, the shared Google Calendar lets families keep track of group plans and other events, while Google Keep makes it possible to capture and share ideas with other family members. Shared albums in Google Photos requires only a few taps to push those weekend snapshots to everyone, while YouTube TV allows up to six people to maintain their own cloud-based DVR for online television shows. Google says the new family tools are rolling out to Google Calendar, Keep, and Photos in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New, Zealand, Russia, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S. starting today. YouTube TV is available in select markets around the U.S. Families, as defined by Google, support up to six members per household.
Google recently updated its YouTube TV app for iOS and gave it the ability to push content to the Apple TV. The Android version of the mobile app can cast video to Chromecast-enabled TVs, but Apple TV users were left without a way to connect the gap between their iPhone and television set. The new version of YouTube TV for iOS adds AirPlay, allowing iPhone owners to view YouTube TV programming on their television set through the Apple TV. YouTube TV for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store, but the availability of the service is limited to just a handful of markets for the time being.
Google I/O, the search company's annual developer conference, is wrapping up after a whirlwind few days in Mountain View, Calif. Google hit attendees with a blitz of announcements centered around artificial intelligence, machine learning, and mobility. While much of what Google showed off is meant for its developer partners, plenty will reach consumers in the days, weeks, and months ahead — not only on Android devices, but iOS, the web, your car, your wrist, your headset, and more.
Google today distributed a bug-fixing update to the Android O beta. The small patch, weighing it at about 55 MB, is meant to smooth out some performance issues present in the initial build. People enrolled in the Android Beta program should see the fresh update hit their devices shortly. The Android O beta works on the Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 6P, and Nexus 5X.
Google this week rolled out the Google Payment API, a new set of capabilities that will allow anyone to make in-app or online payments with any debit or credit card associated with their Google account. Google says this option will simplify the process for people to checkout and make purchases online, as it negates the need to fill out cumbersome purchasing forms. Moreover, the API will make it possible for people to send or receive payments via the Google Assistant. Whether the Assistant is accessed through a smartphone or Google Home, users can say, "Ok Google, send $10 for Jane for pizza" and Google will do exactly that. A separate payment tool for developers, called the Card Linked Offers API, smoothes over the process of supporting loyalty cards and programs. It gives developers a new channel for interacting with customers and rolling out targeted offers. From a consumer standpoint, it will be far easier to add loyalty cards to Android Pay once developers update their app with the Card Linked Offers API. Google expects these capabilities to roll out later this year.
Google today announced a new version of its Complications API for developers in order to help them create better experiences for Android Wear. Complications are dynamic data sets that appear on watch faces, such as step counts, notifications, weather alerts, and similar. Specifically, the refreshed API can now auto-size text to fit in bounds defined by watch face makers and it includes a full rendering tool to handle style and layout factors for complications. The API adds more sample code that developers can cut-and-paste into their apps, as well as a new test suite for checking that watch faces can handle all the fields and complications together. The new Complications API is for Android Wear 2.0 and up. Google released the second-generation wearable platform earlier this year. Google also said it is offering developers a new Wear UI library for handling user interfaces. Notably, Google is killing off the card pattern and multi-directional UIs for Android Wear devices. This change will occur over time.
Google this week released the first public beta of Android O, the next version of its core mobile platform. Android O has a handful of interesting new features, including picture-in-picture, notification dots, autofill for app logins, easy text selection, and much more. Android O may not be huge on hallmark additions to the platform, but it shows an excellent level of refinement from Google. We downloaded the Android O beta and took it for a quick spin. Here are our first impressions of this super early build of Android O.
Verizon Wireless will be the first U.S. carrier to offer a Project Tango smartphone to its customers. The forthcoming Asus ZenFone AR will arrive later this summer, according to Google executive Johnny Lee. The ZenFone AR is significantly smaller than the first Project Tango handset, which was the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro. The ZenFone AR will also be compatible with Google's Daydream virtual reality platform. Asus first announced the ZenFone AR in January. It sports a 5.7-inch WQHD AMOLED display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a vapor cooling system. Triple cameras on the back support Tango applications with a 23-megapixel main camera, depth camera, and motion tracking camera. Other features include NFC, memory card slot, USB-C port, 3.5mm audio jack, and Cat 12 LTE. The 3,300 mAh battery supports Quick Charge 3.0. The exact availability is not yet known.
Google today said it plans to bring full virtual reality support to its Chrome browser for Android handsets. With Chrome VR, people will be able to experience full web sites in virtual reality, watch web-based videos in virtual reality, and interact with web sites through their VR headset. Google suggests that Chrome VR can pair with augmented reality tools when, for example, shopping for furniture in order to help define whether or not things will fit in your house. A new version of Chromium is available to developers from GitHub so web writers can get started in creating VR experiences for the web. Google didn't say when it expects to offer a final version of Chrome VR to the general public.
Google today said it is updating YouTube VR with the ability for multiple people to watch and share experiences at the same time. The new tools will make it possible for those with their own headsets to do what Google calls co-watching. People will be able to enjoy the content and discuss it in real time, even when viewing from separate locations. Google is working with its content producers to create more VR content for YouTube, all of which will be accessible in the new Daydream 2.0 Euphrates platform.
Google today provided some insight on its Daydream virtual reality platform and says a new version of Daydream will soon make its debut. Daydream 2.0 Euphrates targets standalone VR headsets and is powered by Android O. The entire experience is handled in virtual reality. Daydream 2.0 updates the home experience for standalone headsets and smartphones. Euphrates includes a new dashboard that will appear on top of any app and lets people remain in VR even when checking settings, reading notifications, and multitasking. Euphrates also adds Google Cast support, allowing people to pick a destination and cast from Daydream to other devices such as television sets. Daydream 2.0 makes it possible to capture screenshots and then share them via social networks. Google said there are eight Daydream compatible handsets right now, and it expects that number to increase significantly by the end of the year thanks to new entries from LG, Motorola, Asus, and others. Google believes tens of millions of Daydream devices will be in the market by the end of the year.
Android O replaces the squishy emoji blobs that have long been a part of Google's stock operating system with more traditional, circular emoji. Many of Google's handset partners include their own emoji on Android phones, but the clean version of Android that runs on Pixel and Nexus devices includes the blob-style emoji. Android O puts the basic design and shape of the emoji in line with what other companies offer. The redesigned emoji are included in the new Android O beta release that Google made available earlier today.
Google today updated its Android Device Manager application. The app has a fresh design and, more importantly, a new name. Moving forward the app is called Find My Device. As before, it's a tool to help people find, lock, or erase lost or stolen Android devices. Some of the new features include the ability to check the lost device's wifi and battery status, as well as view the last known location in the event the phone has lost power or been turned off. Find My Device is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today made its instant apps tool available to all developers. Google first announced instant apps at its I/O developer conference in 2016. Instant apps can run in the browser via search results even when not installed on users' phones. The idea is to improve the visibility of apps, allow people to test them, and encourage more app downloads. Only a few developers have had access to instant apps since last year. Now, any developer can create instant versions of the apps. Google said it will take most developers about four or five weeks to modify their apps to run in the instant format. It will be up to app creators to use this tool before instant apps begin to appear in search results.
Google today made the first public beta version of Android O available for download. The updated operating system is available to the Google Pixel, Pixel XL, and Pixel C, and the Nexus 6P, 5X, and Nexus Player. In order to access the beta, people will need to register via the Android.com web site. The beta is open to anyone. Some of the hallmark features of Android O include picture-in-picture, improved security, quick app loads, autofill, better power management, and more. Google warns that this initial public beta may not be stable enough for everyday use. Google expects to release the final version of Android O later this summer.