Google today enabled free voice calls from its Google Home speaker. Google Home is powered by the Google Assistant. Google says Home owners in the U.S. and Canada can initiate free voice calls to anyone in their contacts, as well as any business, by simply asking Google Home to make the call. The calls are completed over the Home's WiFi connection. For now, those who receive a call made via Google Home will see "unknown" or "no caller ID" when it rings their number, though Google hopes to let people display their mobile device number in Home calls by the end of the year. People who subscribe to Google Voice or Project Fi can use their Google number with Home right away.
Google today said it is adding a question-and-answer tool to Google Maps and Google Search for Android devices. Users need only search for and open business listings within Maps or Search to see the Q&A feature, which taps into data provided by Google Local Guides and others. Google says existing answers will be visible first, but people can ask (or answer) their own questions. Questions posed by users may be answered by the community at large or the business owner in particular. Google suggests business owners post their own FAQs and/or answers to common questions that might concern hours, accessibility, and so on. Google says the new Q&A feature is rolling out on Maps and Search for Android worldwide.
Google today announced a significant update to its G Suite productivity apps, including Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets. Specifically, the apps gain new powers for collaborating with others. First, users can now save version numbers of documents in order to keep track of their progression from initial draft to final. Users can also preview what the clean version of the document will look like, as well as accept or reject all suggested changes at once. When it comes to mobile devices, Docs, Sheets, and Slides now allow Android and iOS users to suggest changes from their phone or tablet. Google says new templates should help speed up the process of creating documents and spreadsheets, and users can now create their own templates with the proper add-ons. Last, enterprise and education users gain access to a new cloud search tool that integrates across G Suite properties, including Drive, Gmail, Calendar, and others. The new features are rolling out over the next few weeks.
The FCC recently approved a handset made by HTC that could be the next Pixel smartphone from Google. HTC manufactured last year's Pixel and Pixel XL handsets for Google. The FCC confirms that the new model in question, G011A, includes LTE support for all four major U.S. carriers via bands 2, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 17, 25, 26, 30, 41, and 66. The phone supports CDMA BC 0/1/10, providing full support for Sprint voice service. The FCC also confirms that the phone will have Bluetooth, GPS, and dual-band WiFi. Some sample screenshots provided by HTC for the phone's FCC e-label provide a few more details about the device. The G011A runs Android 8.0.1. Google-branded handsets, including the Nexus series and Pixel series, will be the first to run Android 8, suggesting the G011A could be a Pixel. According to these same screen shots, the device runs a baseband radio (Qualcomm part MW8998) that would only be paired with the Snapdragon 835 processor (Qualcomm part MSM8998). The wide LTE band support and potential Snapdragon 835 processor earmark the G011A as a flagship handset of some sort. Last, the screenshots from HTC reference something called "Active Edge" that can be used to "squeeze for your Assistant." The Active Edge sounds a lot like the Edge Sense that HTC pioneered on the U11 smartphone from earlier this year. On the G011A, Active Edge may activate the Google Assistant. Neither HTC nor Google has confirmed any aspect of the G011A or 2017 Pixel.
The Asus ZenFone AR for Verizon is the first phone in the U.S. to support Google Tango, the advanced AR (augmented reality) platform for Android. It supports a small variety of apps so far. The most useful so far are online shopping apps that display virtual items for sale (such as furniture, decorations, fixtures, and appliances) in the room you're currently it. We take it for a spin by decorating a dingy subway station. Check out the full video to see Tango in action.
Google today brought its assistant-backed Allo messaging application to the web. Allo on the web requires Google's Chrome browser and can only interact with Allo on Android smartphones for now (iPhone support is coming later.) Google says Allo web access requires the latest version of the mobile Allo app on your handset in order to function. The setup process includes a unique, scannable QR code to link the phone and web accounts. There are some limitations. For example, Google says Allo for web only displays what's in the mobile app, meaning if the phone runs out of battery or the user quits the app, the web client will cease to work or show conversations. Moreover, a significant number of features are not available on the web at all, such as adding/removing group members, notification/privacy settings, and select chat tools including taking photos, deleting conversations, and blocking contacts. These limitations aside, the web version of Allo allows Android device owners to send messages to one another from their web browser. Allo is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Apple and a handful of technology companies are asking the Supreme Court to carefully consider the potential adverse outcomes if law enforcement is given warrantless access to personal information, such as location data. The companies filed a brief with the Supreme Court, which will soon hear a case about how law enforcement gleaned a suspect's location by taking the data from a third party without a warrant. The case, and the companies' collective opinion, hinges on the third-party doctrine, which has been in place since a 1979 case. The corporations that signed the brief together collect, transmit, and hold terabytes of data and meta-data generated by their customers' use of their services. If the Supreme Court decides data held by third-parties should still be up for grabs, the corporations may have to provide it whenever law enforcement asks. They feel this violates the spirit of the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees certain expectations of privacy, and could in turn convince people to use their online services less. "This transmission of data will only grow as digital technologies continue to develop and become more integrated into our lives. Because the data that is transmitted can reveal a wealth of detail about people’s personal lives, however, users of digital technologies reasonably expect to retain significant privacy in that data," argued the companies. "Fourth Amendment doctrine must adapt to this new reality." The signees include Airbnb, Apple, Cisco, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, Nest, Oath, Snap, Twitter, and Verizon. The companies filed the brief through the ACLU, which is participating in the upcoming case.
Google this week made its Contacts application available to Android devices other than the Nexus and Pixel lines. Moving forward, any phone running Android 5.0 Lollipop and up can download and use Google Contacts. The app relies on Google's Material Design and makes it easy to merge duplicate contacts directly on your phone. It also provides automatic suggestions for adding info to your existing contacts. Google Contacts is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Qualcomm today announced a major expansion of Spectra, its effort to offer manufacturers a drop-in hardware and software solution for easily and affordably adding advanced camera technology to phones and other devices powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon chips. The expanded Spectra suite includes three new hardware camera modules. The flagship module is an active depth-sensing camera that uses an infrared projector and camera to create a 3D map of its environment, much like LIDAR. The other two new modules are a passive depth-sensing version using two standard cameras, and an iris-scanning front camera. Previous Spectra modules focused on photography, while the new modules enable and enhance additional phone functions, including biometric security, advanced AR, room-scale VR, and AI-powered object recognition. Spectra hardware modules are designed with Qualcomm's guidance, but are made by third-party vendors. Each type of module is offered in one version from one vendor. The Spectra suite also includes ready-to-go driver software tuned to each hardware module, and uses unique ISP technology built into the company's Snapdragon chips. The three new camera modules rely on a new version of the ISP — to be found in future Snapdragon chips — that has been redesigned from the ground-up to be optimized for depth-sensing. The active depth-sensing hardware and software is compatible with Google's Tango AR platform, and should enable Tango phones that are smaller, cheaper, and have much better AR performance. When used for VR applications, the active depth-sensing can be used for position tracking that's good enough to enable room-scale VR in phones. This new version of Spectra also includes advanced new algorithms to reduce noise and improve low-light performance in both still photos and video, by intelligently analyzing multiple frames. The new capabilities will be part of the next generation of Snapdragon chips, which has yet to be announced.
Opera Software today said it has pulled Opera Max from the Google Play Store and will no longer update the service. Opera debuted Max in 2014 as a way for Android device users to manage and control their mobile data use. "The product had a substantially different value proposition than our browser products, and represented a different focus for Opera," explained the company in a blog post. Opera said Max will remain up and running for existing users for a while longer, but Max will eventually be shuttered entirely. Opera will inform users before it fully discontinues the service.
Google today updated its Google Search and GBoard applications for Android devices and expanded the number of languages supported in voice typing by 30. Google said it worked with native speakers of these languages from around the world to build the needed speech sample data. In this round of additions, Google targeted African, Indian, and other Asia-Pacific dialects to help those who are coming online perhaps for the first time. Some of the bigger additions include Amharic and Swahili in Africa; Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, and Telugu in India; Javanese and Sundanese in Indonesia; as well as Armenian, Azerbaijani, Georgian, Khmer, Lao, Latvian, Nepali, Sinhala, Tamil, and Urdu. Google says these same languages have been added to the Google Speech API, so developers can add support for them to their own apps. Further, Google will soon support voice dictation for these languages within Google Translate. Separately, English speakers in the U.S. can now use voice dictation to find and insert emoji into text. People can utter phrases like "winky face emoji" and GBoard for Android will find the proper emoji and drop it in. Google says it will add voice-dictated emoji support to more languages soon. GBoard is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Samsung has made a version of its mobile browser available to non-Samsung handsets. The company has been beta testing Samsung Internet Browser on Nexus and Pixel phones since April. The latest build, v6 Beta, is compatible with all Android devices running version 5.0 Lollipop and up. Samsung says its browser can sync bookmarks with Chrome on desktop machines, or other machines via the Samsung Cloud. The Samsung browser also includes content blockers, high-contrast mode, CSS Grid (for control over certain layouts), and the latest Chromium engine. Advanced users might take advantage of several beta features, including WebVR, web-based Bluetooth, WebGL 2, and Gamepad extensions. The Samsung Internet Browser Beta can be downloaded directly from the Google Play Store.
The native Google Camera application, most often found on Nexus and Pixel phones, now includes a selfie flash. The flash works similar to that of the iPhone in that it fires a burst on the screen itself. The flash does not appear to test for white balance like the iPhone's does, and instead maintains an off-white cream color when it fires. The selfie flash can be set to on, off, or auto, and can help provide more light when taking selfies in dark spaces. The Google Camera app also gains a new zooming behavior. Quickly double-tapping the screen will cause the camera to zoom in. Double-tapping again will cause the camera to zoom out. A single tap still sets focus and exposure. Google Camera 4.4 is rolling out in the Google Play Store now.
Google today said its Gmail app for iOS devices now relies on similar anti-phishing technology already available to Gmail for Android. Google began using a new algorithm earlier this to spot possible phishing attacks and emails with suspicious links. Google will spend extra time evaluating emails in transit to see if they are in fact phishing attacks before delivering them to end users' inboxes. Google will also warn users of potentially harmful links buried in emails. It will display one warning for suspected bad links and a second warning for known bad links in order to prevent people from clicking. This change is rolling out to all Gmail users for iOS over the next two weeks.
Deezer this week said its music streaming service will soon be available for streaming on the Google Home smart speaker. Deezer competes with Spotify, Google Play Music, Apple Music, and Amazon Music Unlimited. It offers some 43 million songs, personalized playlists, and recommendations. Deezer subscribers can simply say, "Ok Google, play Deezer" to get going. The service supports skipping tracks, finding song/artist names, and more. Deezer said its music service will go live on Google Home in France and Germany this week, with the U.K., U.S., Canada, and Australia coming soon. The addition of Deezer to Google Home benefits Cricket Wireless customers. Cricket preinstalls Deezer on many of its handsets and offers discounted service plans to Cricket subscribers. According to Cricket and Deezer, the music service is popular with their U.S. customers.
Google today updated its YouTube mobile application and made the process of sharing videos far simpler. Moving forward, people can share videos directly with one another within the YouTube app itself. Shared videos appear in a new tab in the app, bypassing third-party apps entirely. Further, senders and recipients of shared videos can discuss them in the new chat feature that is part of the shared tab. Google says people can respond with videos of their own, as well as invite others to join the conversation. Users will still be able to share videos through third-party apps (Facebook, messages, etc.) if they wish. The new feature, which Google has been testing in select markets since last year, is available in the YouTube mobile app for Android and iOS. YouTube is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.
Google today made its monthly security patches available to select Android devices. This month's patches plug a significant number of security holes that threaten most Android devices. Google found dozens of vulnerabilities, including a number of which classified as critical, or able to remotely execute code. Some of problems are related to specific hardware and the associated software drivers that control them. Google is pushing two separate patches to cover these vulnerabilities, one dated August 1 and the second dated August 5. As always, Google is delivering the patches directly to its own Nexus- and Pixel-branded devices first. Google has already posted factory images for download from its web site. Google's handsets will receive both patches in a single download. As far as Google is aware, none of these security holes have been exploited by hackers or other entities. Google has already given the patches to its device-maker partners. Phone manufacturers are responsible for updating their own smartphones with the patches.
Google updated its YouTube Music application recently and made it possible for users to create their own playlists for offline listening. Before the update, YouTube Music would create mixtape for subscribers using its own algorithms — subscribers could not pick and choose individual songs or albums for offline playback. Now, users can select songs or videos and create their own list of tunes to listen to when the device is offline. YouTube Music is a separate music video-focused application. Offline playback requires a $10 monthly subscription fee, but is included at no extra cost to those who subscribe to YouTube Red or Google Play Music.
Google has pushed out a minor update to the Android Messages application and given it a useful new feature. Now, users can opt to mark messages as read directly from the notification shade. Prior to this change, people had to open the message within the app itself to mark it as read. The app is also now compatible with Android O, including Android O functions such as notification channels. Android Messages 2.3.x is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today said it has taken steps to improve the quality of apps that appear in Play Store searches. Google has adjusted its search algorithm to account for app performance metrics. Google found that apps with excessive battery usage, slow render times, and frequent crashes were poorly rated and often uninstalled or unused by consumers. Moving forward, Google will account for these metrics as it performs searches. Google says this change "results in higher quality apps being surfaced in the Play Store more than similar apps of lower quality." Google encourages developers to ensure their apps are of high quality in order to rank higher in search results. It lists several tools developers can put to use in order to improve their apps. Google claims developers who reduce crashes, in particular, will see average app ratings go up. Higher app ratings generally lead to more downloads and engagement.
You can finally get a phone with Google's "Tango" AR technology in the US. The Asus ZenFone AR goes on sale with Verizon today. With support for Tango apps, it can scan the room and show you life-size, realistic virtual objects placed in the room in real time. It's also a powerful high-end phone with decent specs, especially in the camera department. What's it it like? We checked it out in person and have first impressions to share.
The Asus ZenFone AR is available to U.S. consumers today from Verizon Wireless. The phone, initially announced in January, is the first to support both Google's Project Tango augmented reality platform and Google's Daydream virtual reality platform. Triple cameras on the back support Tango applications with a 23-megapixel main camera, depth camera, and motion tracking camera. Asus says its PixelMaster 3.0 camera system uses Sony IMX318 sensors with a TriTech autofocus system. It includes 4-axis optical image stabilization for photos and 3-axis electronic stabilization for videos. Additional camera tools include low-light shooting, optimized presets, manual controls, and 4K video capture. Multiple microphones capture Hi-Res Audio and DTS virtual surround sound. The phone sports a 5.7-inch WQHD AMOLED display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 6 GB of RAM, 128 GB of storage, and a vapor cooling system. 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. Verizon is selling the phone for $648, or $27 per month for 24 months on an installment plan. The phone will include the Wayfair augmented reality shopping application, which lets ZenFone AR owners add furniture and other items to their home virtually to see how it will look before making a purchase. People who order the phone from Verizon will be rewarded with a $25 Wayfair gift card. Asus is also selling unlocked versions of the phone directly to consumers with different RAM / storage combinations. The 6 GB / 64 GB model costs $599, while the 8 GB / 128 GB model costs $699.
Facebook today said forthcoming changes to the news feed will see it showing more stories that load quickly and fewer stories that load slowly. The change is being made based on user feedback. "We’ve heard from people that it’s frustrating to click on a link that leads to a slow-loading webpage," explained Facebook in a blog post. "In fact, even more broadly on the internet, we've found that when people have to wait for a site to load for too long, they abandon what they were clicking on all together." Moving forward, Facebook will take into account the estimated load time of web sites that are accessed via links posted to Facebook. The social network will factor in the individual's network connection as well as the general load times of the web site in question. Web sites that have shorter load times will appear higher in the news feed than those that have longer load times. Facebook said it is making this change slowly over the coming months. Google already prioritizes faster web sites over slower ones, particularly on mobile devices.
Microsoft today said the latest version of Skype for Android and iOS devices makes it possible to send funds to other Skype users via PayPal. Users will be able to send money through PayPal without leaving the Skype app. The sender will need the new version of Skype to send PayPal funds, but the recipient can accept funds from older versions of Skype. Both the sender and the receiver, however, will need a PayPal account in order to fund and accept the money. If the recipient does not have a PayPal account, they'll be prompted to create one in order to access the funds. The service is available in the U.S. and 21 other countries, and supports the ability to send funds in various currencies. The new version of Skype is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.
Google today released a brand new version of Google Earth for iOS devices. It's the same app that Google made available to Android devices and the web back in April, which represents a complete overhaul of the app that Google spent two years developing. 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, such as Paris and Rio de Janeiro. Natural Treasures from BBC Earth will take you to caves and jungles, or you can walk through dozens of museums. The Voyager section includes some 140 tours available in eight languages. 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. Last, Google Earth explorers can send "postcards" to friends and family by taking 3D pictures within the app for sharing. The new Google Earth is available for free from the iTunes App Store.
Google today added a new tool to image search that should help clarify what type of content is available within the individual search results. Moving forward, people will begin to see small badges in the bottom left corner of image results that indicate what's behind the image. For example, an image search for "cupcakes" may include pictures, recipes, videos, and more. The badges will call out the image category, providing some clarity on what will happen if you tap the image. Tapping a photo marked "recipe" will open a search result with cupcake recipes, and so on. Google says some image search results may be marked as videos, products, or as GIFs. The new badge tool is being made available to Google image search on Android and the mobile web.
Samsung's Galaxy S8 and S8+ are now compatible with Google's Daydream virtual reality platform. According to Google, an update should reach both handsets this week that initiates Daydream services. Daydream is Google's VR program that brings together content from varied sources, such as YouTube, Netflix, CNN, and much more. It requires two separate apps, including Google Virtual Reality Services and Daydream. Daydream content is accessible only from Google's own Daydream VR headset. The S8 and S8+ are already compatible with Oculus VR content and the Samsung Gear VR headset.
Google this week updated Google Calendar so that it interacts more fully with Microsoft Exchange Server. Specifically, Google Calendar now supports real-time free / busy lookups between Google and Microsoft servers within businesses. This means people will be able to search for common meeting times with colleagues and collaborators even if they use different email and calendar systems. Google says this has been a top request from users. This change targets Google's G Suite, which is the business-grade version of Google Calendar. It requires IT admins to configure it properly, so it is not meant for consumers at this time. Google didn't say if or when the same functionality will be made available to free users. The improved hybrid G Suite / Microsoft Exchange integration is coming to both mobile and the web over the days ahead.
Google today released the Nearby Connections 2.0 API to developers, which will eventually help Android devices find, connect to, and communicate with other nearby devices all on their own. The vision is to make it possible for Android handsets to automatically share information with internet-of-things-type devices, such as personal temperature preferences with thermostats, Netflix playlists with connected television sets, and so on. According to Google, the Nearby Connections API makes use of WiFi, Bluetooth LE, and standard Bluetooth to discover and talk to nearby devices. An internet or other network connection is not required. The API relies on the strengths of each connection type while sidestepping the weaknesses. This means it will always find the best way to connect and transfer bytes, files, and streams of data. The API supports two connection topologies: stars (with one central node) and clusters (mesh-like). Google has been testing the API with several partners, including Hopstar, which has created a way for people to share media files when their devices are offline, such as on airplanes. Developers can download the API from Google. It is supported on all devices running Google Play Services 11.
Google today updated its GBoard application for the iPhone and gave the keyboard some powerful new tools. Moving forward, a tap of the "G" button calls up not only Google Search, but YouTube and Google Maps as well. Google says this should make it easier to share video content or location details when composing messages. The YouTube link lets GBoard users jump into YouTube to grab video links and put them into emails or other messages. The Maps tool is chiefly for sharing your location instantly with others, but also allows users to insert a local address or point of interest. GBoard now includes a doodle tool for fun. Tapping the emoji button and then the new pen button makes it possible to create drawings for sharing. Last, GBoard picks up support for Arabic, Farsi, and Hebrew. GBoard for the iPhone is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
LG today said the Q6, the first phone in its new Q series, will soon be more broadly available. The phone is launching in South Korea this week and will follow in key markets in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. The company did not say in which countries the phone will be sold, but indicated that country-specific announcements will be made closer to launch. The Q6 features a 5.5-inch, 18:9 display with full HD+ resolution (2,160 by 1,080 pixels) and minimized bezels. The phone is protected by a 7000 series aluminum frame with rounded corners that match the curvature of the display, much like that of the G6. It carriers over many the G6's software features, such as Android 7.1 Nougat, the square camera, and Google Assistant, while adding facial recognition for unlocking the phone. The main camera has a standard-angle 13-megapixel sensor and the front camera has a 100-degree, wide-angle 5-megapixel sensor. The Q6 is powered by a Snapdragon 435 processor and includes a 3,000mAh battery, microUSB, Bluetooth, WiFi, and NFC.
Google is eliminating its instant search feature, which generated search results in real time as people typed their search queries. The feature was introduced in order to save time, but as the majority of searches are now performed on mobile devices the tool doesn't make as much sense. "We launched Google Instant back in 2010 with the goal to provide users with the information they need as quickly as possible, even as they typed their searches on desktop devices," explained Google in a statement provided to Search Engine Land. "Since then, many more of our searches happen on mobile, with very different input and interaction and screen constraints. With this in mind, we have decided to remove Google Instant, so we can focus on ways to make Search even faster and more fluid on all devices." The move makes Google Search more cohesive between desktop and mobile devices. Google will continue to offer search suggestions in the search box as people tap out their queries.
Google plans to shake up its music offering and ad-free video service, according to statements made by Lyor Cohen, the head of Google Play Music. As it stands today, Google Play Music is available to a single person for $10 per month and families for $15 per month. YouTube Red allows people to enjoy an ad-free YouTube experience for $10 per month. Purchasing YouTube Red, however, gives people access to Google Play Music at no extra charge. Google also offers YouTube Music and YouTube TV, which are separate services for music videos and live TV, respectively. Moving forward, Google Play Music and YouTube Red will be offered together. "The important thing is combining YouTube Red and Google Play Music, and having one offering," said Cohen. Cohen didn't provide any details on what the merged service might look like, but he did say Google will give customers plenty of warning. "Music is very important to Google and we’re evaluating how to bring together our music offerings to deliver the best possible product for our users, music partners and artists. Nothing will change for users today and we’ll provide plenty of notice before any changes are made," said Cohen in a statement provided to The Verge. YouTube TV is the newest of these media services and is only available in 15 markets around the country. It costs $35 per month and will continue to stand on its own.
Google today made Waze available within Android Auto. The new integration means those who prefer Waze to Google Maps can take advantage of Waze via their car's in-dash infotainment center. In order to use Waze, Android users will need to download the latest version of Android Auto and Waze, and then connect their phone to their car via USB. Waze is a popular alternative to Google Maps because it provides real-time information about accidents, construction closures, and other events that may impact navigation. It relies on crowd-sourced data to provide the most up-to-date information. Google says Waze fans will be able to navigate to their favorite destinations saved in Waze (work, home, etc.), receive visual and audio alerts about hazards, check the estimated time of arrival along with alternate routes, and of course help other Waze users by sharing information about accidents and traffic jams. Google said it is working on a version of Waze that works within Android Auto directly on smartphones, but for now Waze integration is limited to in-dash access.
Google today brought its Trusted Contacts app, available to Android devices since last year, to iOS handsets. Trusted Contacts lets people share their location with others during emergencies. The app simplifies the process of adding friends and family as emergency contacts. It allows those added to the list to request location at any time, and works even when offline or the phone's battery is dead. Users can proactively share their location if they feel unsafe or become involved in an emergency situation. People added to the Trusted Contacts list will see the phone's activity status to know the owner is okay. The app is an alternative to Facebook's Safety Check, which allows users of the social network to mark themselves safe during times of crisis. Trusted Contacts is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Adobe today said it will stop updating and distributing the Flash player in 2020. The web plugin is widely used across the web to power experiences such as video and gaming. Adobe says new, open standards such as HTML5 and WebGL have already begun to replace Flash in web browsers. Adobe is working with partners including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla to help with the end-of-life process. Adobe will update and patch Flash up until the end-of-life moment arrives in order to ensure users are protected. It is already encouraging content creators to adopt the new open standards ahead of the change. Flash was once a flashpoint in the mobile space after Apple debuted the iPhone. Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously penned a blog post entitled "Thoughts on Flash" in which he explained Apple's reasons for not supporting Flash within iOS. It was a major point of contention, as it prevented the iPhone from accessing some web content. Apple is now helping Adobe with the transition away from Flash.
Google today announced its Google Maps and Google Search apps will soon show critical information regarding natural and other disasters that may strike. The SOS Alerts, as they are called, will appear at the top of search results and within maps as people look for information concerning the disasters or impacted areas. In Google Search, results will include pertinent news stories or broadcasts, emergency numbers, and relevant web sites. Those close to disaster areas may receive push alerts with the same information. In Google Maps, Google will showcase data concerning the event, phone numbers and web sites, as well as placement on the map and real-time information regarding road closures or changes to mass transit. Google partnered with agencies including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross to gain access to the information. Google is bringing SOS Alerts to its mobile Search and Maps apps for Android and iOS. The same information will also be available to desktop machines.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company's handset partners have new Daydream-compatible devices in the pipeline and there should be a total of 11 such phones available by the end of the year. At the moment, only four phones are able to use Google's virtual reality headsets, including the Pixel and Pixel XL, ZTE Axon 7, Motorola Z, and Huawei Mate 9. It's not clear if Pichai was including the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+, which are primed to receive Daydream compatibility through a software update. The figure likely does include Google's 2017 Pixel devices, whatever they may be. Daydream has certain hardware requirements, particularly where the display is concerned. For example, the display must be between 4.7 and 6 inches, must have a 60 Hz or greater refresh rate with low-persistence mode, and must have at least full HD resolution, with quad HD preferred. Companies including Motorola, HMD Global, Samsung, Sony, Huawei, and LG all have major device announcements lined up between now and early September. It is possible these forthcoming handsets will be among those supporting Google Daydream.
Google today made Android O Developer Preview 4 available to application developers and said this is the final preview before Google releases Android O to consumers later this year. This build contains the final user interface system behaviors, the latest bug fixes and optimizations, and the final set of APIs. Google says along with the penultimate version of Android O, it is offering developers the stable version of the Android 26.0.0 Support Library along with incremental updates to the SDK, Android Emulator, and other developer tools. Among the new tools is a way for developers to test their applications for Android O preparedness. Those who have enrolled their devices in the Android Beta Program should receive Developer Preview 4 over the air in the next few days. Google has already made the system images available for those who prefer to manually install updates. This new preview can be installed on the Nexus 6p and 5x, Pixel, Pixel XL, and Pixel C, and the Nexus Player. Some of the core features of Android O include picture-in-picture, notification dots, widget picker, new emoji, and revamped settings tools. Google said the final version is expected to arrive later this summer. Google still has not revealed what dessert the "O" will be.
Amazon is making Alexa, its artificial intelligence, available to the Android mobile shopping application beginning this week. Any Android device with the Amazon app aboard will have access to Alexa, allowing people to search for and buy goods simply by asking Alexa. Amazon brought this functionality to the iOS Amazon shopping app earlier this year. Amazon says Android users can search for paper towels or reorder batteries and Alexa will do those things within the confines of the Amazon app. The app also lets people listen to music and play Kindle books, ask basic questions, add skills, access Smart Home features, and check the news, weather, and traffic via voice requests. The app works with Android users' Amazon accounts and subscriptions to services such as Amazon Prime. Android device owned can access Alexa by tapping a microphone built into the app. Separate Alexa-powered devices, such as the Amazon Echo, are not required. The Amazon mobile shopping app for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.