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printed October 17, 2017
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Google Pixel Phones Have Hidden Image Processor

Today, 12:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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


Google's Fur-tastic Google Photos Now Better at Recognizing Pets

Yesterday, 12:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made it easier for pet lovers to manage pictures of their feline or canine companions. Google says Photos will now treat pets as the family members they are, grouping them alongside people and allowing users to name and/or label them. Google believes this will improve search and discoverability of pet pictures within Google Photos. Moreover, Google Photos can now sort between breeds to help separate pictures of different dogs. Accordingly, Google Assistant has been improved with the ability to create albums, collages, and movies of pets. Google Photos users can, of course, make their own pet creations whenever they wish. Google Photos' new pet recognition feature is rolling out to most users worldwide today.


Researchers Say WiFi Vulnerability Impacts Nearly Everything

Yesterday, 7:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Researchers say they've found a serious gap in the WPA2 security protocol that can allow hackers to use key reinstallation attacks (KRACKs) to compromise most WiFi devices. The researchers say the method allows hackers to read encrypted information transiting via WiFi, including passwords, emails, photos, credit card numbers, and more. KRACKs can access nearly all WiFi traffic and, depending on the individual network safety configuration, insert code and alter data, such as send malware. The researchers claim the weakness is in the WiFi standard itself, and not in individual products, which is why the vulnerability is so widespread. Devices running Android, iOS, Linux, Windows, macOS, and other platforms are impacted. The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) agreed with the researchers' assessment and warned, "The impact of exploiting these vulnerabilities includes decryption, packet replay, TCP connection hijacking, HTTP content injection, and others. Note that as protocol-level issues, most or all correct implementations of the standard will be affected." In other words, even if WiFi devices are being used properly, with passwords, they are still vulnerable. Google said it is aware of the issue and will patch the vulnerability in a future security update. The WiFi Alliance has not yet responded to the researcher's revelations.


OnePlus Allowing 3 and 3T Owners to Test Oreo Beta

Yesterday, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

OnePlus has made OxygenOS Open Beta 25, based on Android 8 Oreo, available to the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T smartphones. Owners of these phones can, if they wish, download the beta build for pre-release testing. The beta includes core Android 8 Oreo features, such as the new Quick Settings design, auto-fill, smart text selection, PiP, and notification dots. Items specific to OxygenOS include new a OnePlus account login for access to Shot on OnePlus, as well as the ability to upload photos directly to Shot on OnePlus through wallpapers. OnePlus warns there are some bugs in the beta build, including slow downs with the fingerprint reader, stability issues with NFC and Bluetooth, and the loss of the camera shortcut to Google Photos. OxygenOS Open Beta 25 is free to download for those signed up with OnePlus' beta program. OnePlus says users will be able to downgrade to the Nougat-based version of OxygenOS if they find Open Beta 25 too unstable.


Phone-Based Google Assistant Can Now Manage Chromecasts

Saturday, 11:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has made it possible for people to control media playback on their Chromecast devices through their smartphone. The new behavior is available via Google Assistant on Android and iOS devices. People can issue voice-based commands on their mobile phone to play music and/or videos directly on Chromecast dongles, whether the dongles be attached to speakers, television sets, or embedded in boomboxes. People who own multiple Chromecast dongles can specify which one their phone controls. Prior to this change, a Google Home was required to control Chromecast dongles from a phone. Now, Google Home is no longer needed. The feature has been rolling out slowly, but Google confirmed that it is now available to everyone.


Google Assistant On Phones to Gain Voice-Based Shopping

Oct 12, 2017, 10:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today expanded the scale of its Google Express service with the addition of Target stores nationwide. Starting immediately, people who live in the 48 contiguous states can ask Google Assistant on the Google Home product to purchase items from Target. Target offers two-day delivery of most items, and orders over $35 ship for free. Google says the device will soon support the Target RedCard for discounted shopping, as well as common purchases for easy reordering. Google is bringing this same voice-based support for Google Express to Google Assistant on Android and iOS smartphones in the near future. People will be able to say something like "Ok Google, buy a kids bomber jacket from Target," and Google Assistant will call up a selection of jackets on the phone with purchase links. Google says some 50 retailers support Google Express. The company didn't specify how soon Google Express will reach phones.


Google Opinion Rewards Hits iOS

Oct 12, 2017, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has made Google Opinion Rewards available to iOS users through a new app. As it does on Android handsets, Google Opinion Rewards will send surveys to iOS devices that people can complete for cash rewards. Google says surveys have between one and 10 questions, and always take less than 30 seconds to complete. iPhone owners can earn up to $1 for each completed survey. Google says iPhone users will have to link their PayPal account to make use of the rewards (on Android, the rewards are deposited into users' Google Play accounts.) The Google Opinion Rewards app is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Google Lets Android Users Merge iTunes, Google Movie Libraries Into One

Oct 12, 2017, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a new service called Movies Anywhere, which allows people to bring together their movie collections from Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, and Vudu into a single library that can be accessed from any device. Google is launching Movies Anywhere in the U.S. first and it includes movie purchases from major studios Disney, Fox, Sony Pictures, Universal, and Warner Bros. As an incentive, Google is offering free access to a handful of movies to those who link two or more accounts to Movies Anywhere, including last year's Ghostbusters and Jason Borne. Use of Movies Anywhere is free.


Google Merging Video Call Tool Into Phone Dialer

Oct 11, 2017, 1:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is taking steps to ease the process of making video calls between Android handsets. Starting with Nexus, Pixel, and Android One devices, users will be able to initiate video calls directly from the phone dialer or text messaging app. There are some hitches. Both the caller and the callee will need to be on carrier networks that support ViLTE video calling. If ViLTE is not available, both the caller and callee will need to have the Google Duo video calling app installed. Google says it hopes to bring the merged video/voice call interface to more Android handsets over time, including the second-generation Pixel devices.


Twitter Debuts 'Happening Now' to Call Out Real-Time Events

Oct 11, 2017, 7:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 11, 2017, 7:45 AM

Twitter has rolled out a new way to see what's happening live around the world with the addition of a "Happening Now" tool in users' timelines. Twitter says the Happening Now content will center on events and topics it thinks users will be interested in, though it is kicking off the feature with a focus just on sports in the U.S. Users can tap the new icon to see what the event is, hide the event from their timeline, or select the featured photo to view conversations about the event. Twitter didn't say when Happening Now might be expanded to other event types, such as concerts, or regions. Twitter often seeks out ways to capitalize on the real-time nature of its service and Happening Now is the latest such attempt. The new tool is being made available to both Android and iOS devices via the latest version of Twitter, which is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.


Google's Project Fi Pushes Back Moto X4 Deliveries

Oct 11, 2017, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google's Project Fi has informed some customers via email that their Motorola Moto X4 handsets won't arrive when initially expected. Google says Motorola ran into production delays with the phone, which means the first wave of deliveries will be delayed. The device is now expected to ship between October 18 and October 25. Google apologized for the inconvenience and said those trading in devices will still have 30 days to do so after they receive their Moto X4. The Moto X4 is notable because it is the first non-Nexus, non-Pixel handset compatible with Google's Project Fi wireless service. It is also the first Android One handset to be sold directly to U.S. consumers.


Microsoft Brings Cortana Assistant to Skype for Android and iOS

Oct 9, 2017, 2:54 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today ported its Cortana personal assistant to its Skype chatting application, providing people with access to information without forcing them to leave Skype. Microsoft says Cortana in Skype can suggest useful information based on chat contents, suggest smart replies, manage schedules and/or reminders, and more. Beyond the proactive assistant duties, Cortana exists as a Skype contact with which users can have "conversations" to check movie times, the weather, flight status, stock quotes, and restaurant recommendations. Microsoft says it is rolling out Cortana to Skype users in the U.S. gradually beginning today. The personal assistant is available to the Android and iOS versions of Skype. Microsoft today also updated its Outlook mobile email and calendar app for Android and iOS devices with much wider support for varied calendar actions. For example, Android and iOS users will now be able to view and edit shared Office 365 or Outlook.com calendars; manage someone else’s calendar at work; connect your Meetup account to Outlook; and more easily manage events from mobile devices. Outlook for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Essential Boosts Camera Performance via System Update

Oct 6, 2017, 7:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential Products says the camera in its PH-1 smartphone should be just a bit better now thanks to some updates. The company has boosted capture speed in regular and low-light environments, as well as improved brightness and performance in low-light images. The company updated its 360-degree camera accessory, too, which can now capture spatial sound when shooting video. The volume up/down keys act as shutter buttons in 360 mode, and can act as a countdown timer if so desired. In order to score these changes, PH-1 owners will need to update to the latest system build (NMI81C) and then update the camera application via the Google Play Store. Essential has more updates planned for its camera app (better HDR, portrait, and pro modes) planned for the weeks ahead.


Microsoft Releases Edge Browser for Android and iOS, Launcher for Android

Oct 5, 2017, 8:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made a beta version of its Edge browser available to Android and iOS devices. The beta, available to registered Windows Insiders, requires users to initiate the signup process through a Windows 10 PC. Edge for mobile devices ports over popular desktop features, include Favorites, Reading List, New Tab Page, and Reading View. It can sync bookmarks and browser history with the desktop and includes a built-in QR code reader. It's only available to U.S. beta testers in English for now. Microsoft today also released a new launcher for Android handsets. The launcher replaces the native home screen on Android devices in favor of Microsoft's. It includes Windows 10 features such as favorites, recent photos, documents, and more. Before today, the Microsoft Launcher for Android was in beta status via the Microsoft Garage. It is now available for download through the Google Play Store.


Verizon Only Carrier to Sell Google Pixel, But There Are Options

Oct 4, 2017, 3:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless is the only U.S. wireless operator that will officially sell the new Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL handsets, same as it was with last year's Pixels. Verizon's monthly pricing for the phones is in line with other flagship smartphones. For example, the 64 GB Pixel 2 costs $27.08 per month for 24 months, while the 128 GB model costs $31.24 per month. Similarly, the 64 GB Pixel 2 XL costs $35.41 per month for 24 months, while the 128 GB model costs $39.58 per month. The phone is available for pre-order from Verizon Wireless' web site and ships starting October 17. Alternately, consumers can buy either a Verizon or unlocked variant of the Pixel 2 / XL directly from the Google Play Store. Google asks customers to pay for the phones in full up front, though financing options are also available. The 64 GB Pixel 2 costs $649 and the 128 GB Pixel 2 costs $749. The 64 GB Pixel 2 XL costs $849 and the 128 GB Pixel 2 XL costs $949. Shipping and taxes are extra. People who choose to buy their Pixel 2 through Google have the option to trade in last year's Pixel (if they have one) at reasonably good rates. For example, an unlocked 128 GB Pixel XL garners a trade-in value of $410, or about half the cost of the new model. Best Buy sells the new Pixel 2 phones, too, though only the Verizon-branded version. For the moment, Best Buy is offering a $100 discount on all Pixel 2 models when activated on a new line with Verizon.


Google Refocuses Daydream View Headset

Oct 4, 2017, 3:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alongside the new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones, Google today introduced a new version of its Daydream View VR headset. Both new Pixel phones are Daydream-ready and function perfectly with the revised viewing hardware. Google says the lenses have been improved in order to create a wider, clearer field of view. The headset carries over the soft fabric covering and controller of the original, and it comes in fog, charcoal, and coral. Google says more than 250 Daydream titles are available to Android devices, and the amount of content available through YouTube VR has grown exponentially over the last year. Google's new Pixel handsets support ARCore augmented reality, too, and Google expects fun add-ons such as sticker packs will help people get off the ground with AR content. The new Google Daydream View will be available later this year for $99 from the Google Store, Verizon, Best Buy, AT&T, and Amazon.


Google’s New Pixel Phones to Ship with Embedded eSIM

Oct 4, 2017, 1:51 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 4, 2017, 2:06 PM

Google today revealed that the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL handsets will include an optional, built-in eSIM card, allowing people to bypass the use of traditional SIM cards. According to Google, the eSIMs will be compatible with its own Project Fi service. During initial setup, owners will be asked if they want to use the embedded eSIM. Google says it will do the “heavy lifting” of activating the eSIM on its network. “This means you no longer need to go to a store to get a SIM card for wireless service, wait a few days for your card to arrive in the mail, or fumble around with a bent paper clip to coax your SIM card into a tiny slot,” explained Google in a blog post. For now, the eSIM is being tested on the new Pixel handsets only. Users will have to purchase the Pixel directly from the Play Store or Project Fi to take advantage of the eSIM. Both phones include a standard slot for nano SIM cards.


Google Debuts Wireless Headphones with Real-Time Translation

Oct 4, 2017, 1:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced the Pixel Buds, Bluetooth headphones that provide direct access to Google Assistant. All the controls are available through a capacitive touch surface on the right earbud, which supports tapping and swiping gestures. A touch-and-hold action activates the Google Assistant, which can open apps, spin playlists, and perform searches. Moreover, the Pixel Buds include real-time translations when used with a Google Pixel. People can ask for phrases to be translated, which can then be read aloud via the handset's speaker. The headphones include a charging case that provides up to 24 hours of battery life. Google says the Pixel Buds, which come in black, white, or blue, go on sale for $159 in November.


Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Rely On Google Assistant More Than Ever

Oct 4, 2017, 12:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 4, 2017, 12:40 PM

Google today announced the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones. Both devices run Android 8 Oreo and feature a new Assistant bar that is placed at the bottom of the home screen. Assistant is always available and working in the background to tie together the various things people do throughout the day, such as home-bound commutes. One of the key features is a carryover from the HTC U11: squeezing the sides of the phone will activate Google Assistant. The devices share most hardware features, including aluminum designs, glass front and rear panels, 12-megapixel main cameras, 8-megapixel selfie cameras, and rear-mounted fingerprint sensors. The camera has the ability to to optical and electronic video stabilization at the same time and the lens has an aperture of f/1.8. It includes a feature called Motion Photos, which are similar to the iPhone's Live Photos. The Pixel 2 has a 5-inch display, while the Pixel 2 XL has a 6-inch 18:9 quad HD+ plastic AMOLED display (similar to the LG V30). The phones meet IP67 for protection agains water and dust ingress. Google says the devices will receive up to three years of software support. Other specs include a Snapdragon 835 processor with 4 GB of RAM, stereo speakers, Bluetooth 5, and Daydream capability. The smaller Pixel 2 comes in black, blue, and white and costs $649, while the larger Pixel 2 XL comes in just black and white and costs $849. They include 64 GB of storage, but a 128 GB option is available for an additional $100 for each model. The device is available for pre-order starting today and ships October 17. For a limited time, Googe will give those who buy the Pixel 2 / XL a free Google Home Mini.


Google Home Max Is Your New In-House Party Machine

Oct 4, 2017, 11:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced Google Home Max, a more powerful, music-focused version of its Google Home product. The divice includes two 4.5-inch woofers, two 0.7-inch tweeters, and the ability to create massive volume levels. The software dynamically tunes the speaker to work best with the local environment. It supports cast, Bluetooth, and AUX input for a variety of sources. Google Assistant is built-in, or course, and Home Max works with Play Music as well as Spotify and other streaming music services. It can stand horizontally or vertically and should fit easily into most homes or apartments. The speaker includes a free year of YouTube Red, which offers an ad-free viewing experience. Google Home Max will be available in December for $399 in chalk and charcoal.


Google Assistant Can Now Find Your Phone, Call from Your Mobile Number

Oct 4, 2017, 11:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said its Home-based Google Assistant product can easily find your Android or iOS smartphone. Home owners need only say, "OK Google, find my phone." The Assistant will ring Android phones, or send a call to iPhones, even when the phone is in silent mode. Google envisions this as a quick and helpful way for finding missing handsets in the house. Moreover, Google has improved the voice-calling feature to include users' mobile phone numbers. Now, voice calls made via Google Home will show the owner's registered number. Previously, it showed Home-based calls as "unknown" or "unlisted" in the caller ID. This should help people connect calls to people who might otherwise not pick up. Google Assistant is being improved continuously for the Google Home.


Google Reveals Google Home Mini

Oct 4, 2017, 11:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a smaller version of its Google Home in-home assistant product. Like the original, Google Home Mini has a fabric body, multiple microphones, light-up LEDs, a speaker, and support for Chromecast speakers. It comes in coral, chalk, and charcoal. Users can speak to it to ask questions of the built-in Google Assistant. Google Home Mini will retail for $49 and it goes on sale October 19, with pre-orders kicking off today.


Google Allo Expands Presence On the Web

Oct 4, 2017, 8:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has increased the availability of its Allo messaging app to more desktop browsers and mobile devices. Specifically, the service is now available to the Firefox and Opera browsers. It was previously only available within Chrome. The messaging service can now also be accessed online by iOS users. Allo was previously only available online to those using Android handsets. Allo is unique because it includes baked-in support for the Google Assistant. The new support for Firefox, Opera, and iOS is rolling out slowly over the next few days.


Google Brushes Up Contacts App for Android

Oct 3, 2017, 7:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated its Google Contacts application for Android to version 2.2 with changes to how it looks and functions. For example, the main contact view card brings back large photos, action buttons, and profile details. The action buttons, in particular, can be useful for quickly initiating new messages, emails, or video chats. Google says its suggested contacts tool should behave more uniformly across Google products, especially concerning those contacted frequently. The merge tool gains the ability to merge all duplicates at once directly from smartphones. Last, users can customize the contacts list view to show only certain labels if so desired. Google Contacts 2.2 for Android is free to download from the Play Store.


Facebook's Messenger Lite App Reaches the U.S.

Oct 3, 2017, 7:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook recently made its data-saving, lightweight Messenger Lite application available to Android users in the U.S. The app has primarily been available in emerging markets where metered data connections are the norm. Messenger Lite is less than 10 MB to install on most handsets so its loads fast, runs efficiently, and uses less mobile data. The app was built to function under adverse network conditions, and allows people to send one-on-one or group messages, make voice calls, as well as send photos, videos, and links. Facebook Messenger Lite does not include advanced features, such as Facebook Stories, and it strips out features such as events and birthdays. It is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Google Drops Android Wear Beta for LG Watch Sport

Oct 2, 2017, 3:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made a fresh beta build available of Android Wear. This pre-release operating system is compatible with a single device, the LG Watch Sport. Google says the beta targets several behaviors and refinements within API level 26, specifically notification channels and background limits. For example, this new Android beta makes it possible for users to choose the types of notifications they receive on their wearable, as well as separate those generated by watch apps and those generated by phone apps. Moreover, the Android beta improves upon background limits to restrict apps running in the background. The end result should be better battery life. Google stopped short of giving the beta a number designation, though because it is an upgrade of API level 26 it is like Android Wear 2.x.


Android October Security Patch Here for Nexus/Pixel Phones

Oct 2, 2017, 2:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made its monthly security patches available to select Android devices. October's patches plug a handful of security holes that threaten Android devices. Google found several dozen vulnerabilities, most of which were classified as moderately dangerous. Some of problems are related to specific hardware and the associated software drivers that control them, such as components from HTC, Motorola, Huawei, Qualcomm, and Broadcom. Other vulnerabilities impact the kernel, system, and media framework directly. Google is pushing a patch dated October 5 to resolve these issues. Google said the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel C, Nexus Player, Nexus 5X, and Nexus 6P devices will receive the October security patches directly over the air. The factory images are available for download from Google's developer web site. As far as Google knows, none of these security holes have been exploited. Google has already supplied the patches to its handset partners.


LG V30+ Exclusive to Sprint, Coming October 13

Sep 29, 2017, 3:07 PM   by Rich Brome

Sprint will offer LG's new flagship V30+ phone starting on October 13th. The V30+ is exclusive to Sprint in the U.S.; other carriers will offer the standard V30. The V30+ has 128 GB of internal storage, twice that of the standard V30. It will also come with LG QuadPlay high-quality earbuds. For a limited time, it will also come with a free Google Daydream VR headset. The V30 is one of the first LG-branded phones compatible with Daydream. Sprint is selling the phone for $912, or leasing it for $38/month. For a limited time, Sprint is offering 2-for-1 on the $38/month lease.


Google Makes Family Link More Widely Available

Sep 28, 2017, 7:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made its Family Link tool available to parents in the United States without an invitation. Family Link is a service that lets parents set up and monitor their children's Android smartphones. Parents can use the app to create Google accounts for kids younger than age 13, which are linked to the parent's Google account. Parents can then approve and block apps from the Google Play Store, control screen time with daily limits, and remotely lock or prevent devices from being used at night. Though parents can now use Family Link from an Android handset or an iPhone, the child's handset still needs to run Android 7 Nougat and up.


Alcatel Idol 5 Offers a Premium Design for $200

Sep 28, 2017, 3:00 PM   by Rich Brome

Alcatel today announced the Idol 5 for Cricket Wireless. The Idol 5 is a $200 Android phone with a premium design that marries a solid metal body with a curved glass front. Its hardware features include front-facing stereo speakers, NFC, a USB-C connector, and a customizable shortcut key. On the software side, it has several features that make the phone fun to use, such as a Color catcher app that automatically picks three colors from what the camera sees and generates a new interface theme based on those colors, including new wallpaper and icons. The 12-megapixel camera includes several creative modes, such as light trace, cinemagraph, and instant collage. It also works with Alcatel's new UNI 360 VR goggles. Alcatel's new VR Home app for the UNI 360 lets you run Google Cardboard VR apps with extra features like the ability to receive notifications and see the room around you without leaving VR mode. VR Home is exclusive to Alcatel Idol phones. The Idol 5 also has a 5.2-inch full-HD display, MediaTek Helio P20 processor, 2GB of RAM, an 8-megapixel front camera, Android 7, memory card slot, and a 3.5mm audio jack. It will go on sale with Cricket on October 27th.

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Siri Switches From Bing to Google

Sep 25, 2017, 5:08 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple today changed its Siri voice assistant to use Google for web searches instead of Microsoft's Bing. The change affects direct requests to search the web, as well as default results when Siri cannot return a more specific, intelligent answer or action. Apple says the switch is intended to make web search more consistent, as Google is already the default within Apple's Safari web browser in phones. Bing will still power Siri's image search function. The change takes effect today.


Google Intros 'Zero-Touch' Android Enterprise Deployments

Sep 21, 2017, 12:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made it easier for businesses to configure and deploy Android handsets to employees with a new tool called zero-touch enrollment. Google says zero-touch lets companies configure purchased devices and ship them directly to employees completely preconfigured with corporate policies and controls all in place. Users need only sign in to gain access to their work apps and data. The new zero-touch enrollment tool is available on handsets purchased from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless in the U.S. Google is working with Samsung, Huawei, Sony, LG, HMD Global, BlackBerry, HTC, Motorola, Honeywell, Zebra, and Sonim to ensure a wide selection of devices support zero-touch. Google indicated the Huawei Mate 10 and Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact will be among the first devices to support zero-touch in the coming weeks. Businesses will be able to use a wide range of enterprise device management tools from the likes of BlackBerry, MobileIron, IBM, Suite, and VMware to configure zero-touch. Google encouraged businesses that are interested in zero-touch to contact their carriers directly.


Google Partners with Bose for Assistant-Capable Headphones

Sep 21, 2017, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced what it says are the first headphones optimized to work with Google Assistant. The Bose QC35 II wireless cans have a dedicated action button for interacting with Google Assistant. A quick press of the action button allows people to listen to incoming messages or check their calendar; access playlists, skip tracks, and listen to the news; or answer or make phone calls. The Bose QC35 II headphones are a modified version of last year's QC35s. They include active noise cancellation. Google said Assistant on the QC35 II will be available in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Germany, France, and the U.K. Pricing and exact retail dates were not provided. For reference, the original QC35s cost $349. Other headset makers have already included Google Assistant in their own designs using APIs from Google, but these do not have dedicated action buttons.


Google to Buy HTC's Pixel Handset Team for $1.1 Billion

Sep 20, 2017, 9:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it has agreed to purchase HTC's Pixel smartphone business, as well as acquire some employees and license intellectual property, for $1.1 billion in cash. HTC's Pixel engineers will be added to Google's existing hardware organization, where they will continue to work on the Pixel smartphone line. "In many ways, this agreement is a testament to the decade-long history of teamwork between HTC and Google," said Rick Osterloh, former Motorola executive and current senior vice president of Google's hardware business. "Together, we've achieved several mobile-industry firsts, including the first ever Android smartphone, the HTC Dream / T-Mobile G1; as well as the Nexus One in 2010, the Nexus 9 tablet in 2014, and the first Pixel smartphone just last year." Osterloh said Google will continue to focus on its core capabilities, creating hardware that takes advantage of Google's software. HTC will retain its actual smartphone business. In a statement, HTC said the company "will continue to have best-in-class engineering talent, which is currently working on the next flagship phone, following the successful launch of the HTC U11 earlier this year." HTC will also retain its Vive-branded virtual reality business and invest in next-generation technologies, such as the internet of things, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence. The companies did not say when they expect the deal to close.


Google Brings the Moto X4 with Android One to Project Fi

Sep 20, 2017, 10:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google's Project Fi just scored its first non-Nexus / Pixel handset. The company added the Motorola Moto X4 to the selection of devices compatible with Project Fi, which is Google's low-cost MVNO. The Moto X4, announced earlier this year, joins the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Pixel, and Pixel XL in Project Fi's lineup. Perhaps more importantly, the Moto X4 will run the Android One variant of Android. This represents the first time an Android One device is being made available in the U.S. Android One is Google's slimmed-down version of Android for inexpensive devices. The idea is to provide a core Android experience that performs well no matter the hardware's possible limitations. It includes Google Assistant, Google Duo, Google Play Protect, and the latest updates to Android Oreo. In fact, Google committed to updating the Android One Moto X4 to (previously unannounced) Android P. The Moto X4 for Project Fi sports a stylish design with a metal frame and curved glass, plus a 16-megapixel selfie camera and dual rear cameras, with one wide-angle lens. It also has a 5.2-inch screen, Snapdragon 630 processor, memory card slot, water resistance, 3.5mm audio jack, and USB-C connector. It supports Motorola's TurboPower rapid charging. The Android One Moto x4 is priced at $399, and comes in black and blue. It is available pre-order on the Project Fi web site starting today. Google said it will accept trade-ins of older Nexus phones for those wishing to upgrade.


Google Overhauls Snapseed Photo Editing App

Sep 20, 2017, 9:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today revealed a refresh of Snapseed, its advanced photo-editing application. Snapseed 2.18 for Android and iOS features a brand new user interface that Google says speeds up the editing process. For example, Snapseed has moved the Looks tool, which consists of user-created filters, to the main screen for quicker access. Moreover, Snapseed gains 11 new preset filters that people can apply to their photos. The iOS version of Snapseed earns access to the Perspective tool, which lets editors adjust skewed lines of horizons or buildings. Snapseed 2.18 is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


HTC Halts Trading Shares Ahead of Major Announcement

Sep 20, 2017, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC will cease trading shares of its stock in anticipation of a significant announcement to be made tomorrow. The news was first revealed by the Taiwan Stock Exchange, which said "shares of HTC Corporation ... will be halted starting from Sept. 21, 2017 pending the release of material information." HTC confirmed the halt in share trading, but did not provide a reason behind the action. Earlier this month, Bloomberg suggested that Google might acquire HTC, or a portion thereof. It is possible that HTC plans to announce a takeover by Google during the announcement, which is being made town-hall style at its Taipei headquarters. The company's response to the Taiwan Stock Exchange alert read, "HTC does not comment on market rumor or speculation." HTC, once a dominant maker of Android handsets, has been fading for years in the face of competition from Samsung, LG, Huawei, ZTE, and others. The company's financial health has been in question many times due to weak sales. HTC never stopped making compelling smartphones, such as the One series, the U11, and Pixel devices for Google. Google may want to bring HTC's handset division under its wing for future Pixel smartphones.


LG V30 Launches In Korea This Week, North America Soon Thereafter

Sep 19, 2017, 8:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today said it will begin shipping its V30 flagship handset to customers in South Korea this week. The phone will arrive in North America, Europe, and other markets "in the days and weeks to come." LG didn't provide an exact launch window for the U.S., and LG's U.S. carrier partners have yet to announce pricing plans for the high-end phone. The V30 is the latest to adopt LG's 18:9 FullVision display with a plastic OLED panel and Gorilla Glass 5 covering the quad HD+, 6-inch screen. The phone boasts a twin-camera design with wide-angle and standard view lenses, high-resolution audio capture, wireless charging, and support for Google Daydream VR. The V30 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and it runs Android 7 Nougat.


Apple Music for Android Updated to Match iOS 11

Sep 19, 2017, 3:43 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today updated its Apple Music application for the Android platform in order to ensure the experience is similar to that of the revised iOS version. Android device owners have access to the same iOS 11 Apple Music discovery feature that allows people to create public profiles and share playlists. The new music app also introduces support for voice search, which lets people say "OK Google" to find artists, albums, and songs. Apple Music gains a fresh widget that highlights music that was recently played, and a new tap-and-hold shortcut to quickly play Beats 1 Radio or start a new search. Apple Music is free to download from the Google Play Store, but the service requires a $10 monthly subscription.


Google Search for iOS Adds Related Content Suggestions

Sep 19, 2017, 9:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its mobile search application for iOS devices and made it easier for people to find similar articles or content. Moving forward, a pull-up tab will appear at the bottom of web pages with suggestions for related content. Once opened, iOS device users can scroll sideways through a carousel of content similar to the article they just read. For example, say someone searches for chili recipes and reads one of the initial results. The other recipe results will be fed into the pull-up tab, making it easier to jump to alternate recipes without returning to the search results screen. This feature is limited to English in the U.S. for now, but Google says it will expand to more languages and countries over time. Google Search is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


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