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printed December 12, 2017
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Google Seeds Experimental Camera Apps for Android and iOS

Yesterday, 4:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released three photography "appsperiments" that are meant to be fun ways to use your smartphone's camera. The new apps "rely on object recognition, person segmentation, stylization algorithms, efficient image encoding and decoding technologies" to create interesting and unique experiences. Storyboard, available only for Android, takes videos and turns them into single-page comic layouts. The app will automatically scan videos to select what it considers to be interesting video frames and then lay them out in one of six styles. The comics are easy to save or replace by filming new video. Selfissimo (pictured), available to Android and iOS devices, is a budding model's dream. The app is an automated selfie photographer that snaps shots as you move around and make poses. The app encourages you to pose as you go and will create a contact sheet with all the results. People can save individual images or the entire shoot. Last, Scrubbies, available only to iOS devices, lets people adjust video playback speed and direction quickly and easily with their fingers. It works sort of like a deejay turntable to create video loops that highlight action. Google says the appsperiments are in a trial phase and it welcomes feedback from early adopters.


Google Home Max Now Available for $399; Verizon Discounts LG V30

Yesterday, 10:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today began selling the Google Home Max in-home assistant and speaker. The Max relies on the same Google Assistant that powers the Google Home and Google Home Mini devices, but packages the voice-based tool in a larger, music-focused box. The Max has twin 4.5-inch woofers and can analyze the room to automatically adjust its tuning for the best possible sound. It supports streaming services such as Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Pandora, and Spotify, and can interact with Chromecasts and other cast-enabled devices. The Google Home Max is available online from Verizon and Best Buy. Verizon Wireless also rolled out a promotion for the LG V30. Customers can snag a $300 discount on the phone when purchased on a 24-month payment plan. The $300 discount is applied monthly until the phone is paid off. The LG V30 deal is only available online.


Essential's Andy Rubin Back to Work After Short Leave

Yesterday, 9:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Andy Rubin has returned to his duties as CEO of Essential Products after a very short leave of absence, reports Recode. Rubin took leave from Essential in late November after a relationship he had with a coworker during his time at Google became public. Rubin insists the relationship was consensual, though it involved an employee on his Android team at Google. Rubin was moved to a different division at Google and later left to found Playground Global, a venture capital firm, and Essential Products. Earlier this year, Essential debuted its first handset, the PH-1. The PH-1 is an all-screen Android device made from high-end materials and top specs.


OnePlus 5T Can't Stream HD Content from Netflix, Google, Amazon

Yesterday, 8:58 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The latest flagship smartphone from OnePlus cannot stream video content from certain providers in high-definition, according to The Verge. The services impacted include Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Movies, and Netflix. The OnePlus 5T has a full HD+ display and a powerful Snapdragon 835 processor with 8 GB of RAM, meaning the hardware is certainly capable of delivering HD content. OnePlus confirmed the issue to The Verge and said a future update will resolve the deficiency. The issue pertains to the 5T's lack of support for Widevine Level 1 DRM, something content services often require for HD streaming. OnePlus did not say when the software fix might be made available.


Google Highlights Which Android Watches Will Get Oreo

Yesterday, 8:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently provided a list of Android-based wearables that have or will receive the Android 8 Oreo update. According to Google, Oreo is already available to the Fossil Q Venture, LG Watch Sport, Louis Vuitton Tambour, Michael Kors Sofie, and the Montblanc Summit. Watches that are testing Oreo include selections from Casio, Diesel, Emporio, Fossil, Guess, Huawei, Hugo Boss, LG, Michael Kors, Movado, Polar, Tag Heuer, Tommy Hilfiger, and ZTE. As always, the exact timing of the update is up to each individual manufacturer. Android 8 Oreo for Android Wear is a minor update that tweaks some notification behaviors and vibration settings, and adds new languages and notification channels for improved battery life.


Google Pushes Android 8 Oreo to Smartwatch Makers

Thursday, 1:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated its Android Wear platform to Android 8 Oreo. The number of new features is limited. For example, Oreo for Android Wear makes it possible to control the notification vibration strength and set a touch lock option for wet conditions. The platform now supports seven new languages and countries, and adds to the list of notification channels in order to help save battery life on Android-based wearables. Google made the refreshed operating system available to its smartwatch manufacturer partners. It will be up to each individual hardware maker to work the code into their own devices. With respect to when end users might see their Android watch updated to Oreo, Google said plainly that "timing is determined by each watch’s manufacturer."


Republic Wireless Relay Is a Google-Powered, Walkie-Talkie Phone for Kids

Dec 7, 2017, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Republic Wireless today announced the Relay, a simple, screenless device meant to help young children communicate with their parents and other family members. The Relay is small, puck-like speakerphone with a single large button. Pressing the button lets kids automatically speak and send a short voice message to their parents. Parents receive the message in SMS form and can respond via SMS. The Relay will play the parent's response message over the speaker. Using two Relays, kids can converse directly with a trusted adult or one another using walkie-talkie style communication. The associated app lets parents check in to see the child's GPS whereabouts, and advanced geofencing supports alerts and other notifications or controls with respect to location. The Relay can be put into assistant mode where it can interact with the Google Assistant. Using Google Assistant, kids can speak standard queries or even play their favorite playlists trough the Relay's speaker. The Relay is water-resistant and semi-rugged for protection against the outdoor activities typically enjoyed by children. The Relay will be available in early 2018 and will not require a Republic Wireless account. A single Relay costs $99, but parents can buy two for $149, or three for $199. Service costs $6.99 per month.

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Android Go Updated with Oreo

Dec 5, 2017, 3:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today rolled out Android 8.1 Oreo and with it a version specifically for its Android Go platform. Android Go represents a simplified variant of Android for low-powered handsets. Specifically, Android 8.1 Oreo Go Edition makes optimizations to memory management so apps run better on hardware with 1 GB or less of RAM. The platform supports more targeting options for developers, which means they can cater their apps to specific hardware features. Android Go with Oreo also includes rebuilt and optimized apps from Google to ensure they use less memory, less storage, and less mobile data. Last, Google Play on Android Go Oreo devices will provide greater visibility for apps that are optimized for the Go platform. The first Android Oreo Go handsets are being released in India. One of the only Android Go devices available to U.S. consumers is the Project Fi variant of the Moto X4. Google did not say if or when the X4 will receive his particular software update.


Google Releases Android 8.1 Oreo

Dec 5, 2017, 3:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made Android 8.1 Oreo official. Google had made the final developer preview of the refreshed platform available at the end of November. Most prominently, Android 8.1 unlocks the Pixel Visual Core on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones. This lets app developers put the Pixel phones' HDR+ mode to use in their own imaging apps. Android 8.1 Oreo also includes a significant number of under-the-hood changes. For example, apps can take advantage of hardware acceleration for on-device machine learning operations. Android 8.1 makes changes to notifications, helps developers target low-RAM devices, and improves Oreo's autofill behaviors. Developers gain new tools, too, such as the Safe Browsing API for detecting threats, the Shared Memory API for creating apps that are able to share memory resources, and the Wallpapercolors API for tweaking wallpapers. Android 8.1 Oreo is available to the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, and Pixel C. The update will be available over the air in the days ahead.


Google Tweaks Search with Fresh Discovery Tools

Dec 5, 2017, 3:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced several changes to its core search product that are meant to help people discover fresh content as they perform searches. For example, Featured Snippets are content highlighted by Google to provide "quick, relevant answers" to search queries. Further, Featured Snippets will include more images related to the search query to help with discovery and provide context. Google says the Knowledge Panels in Search have been updated, too, to point users to secondary searches related to their initial query. For example, Google says people who search for information about skiing may also see results for snowboarding and other related activities. Last, Google will more prominently display search suggestions for related topics that are in the same vein as the initial search. Users can tap one of the suggestions to instantly search for that related topic without leaving the initial result screen. These changes have all been added to the latest version of the main Google mobile search application.


Google Launches Multi-Purpose File-Wrangling App

Dec 5, 2017, 10:20 AM   by Rich Brome

Google today released the final version of Files Go, its new file-management app for Android. The app serves multiple purposes: it includes a file browser, local file transfer tool, and a tool to help free up storage on your phone. The file browser is arranged by file type: images, videos, audio, document, and apps. The file browser also includes multiple views, plus sorting and filter options. The file-transfer tool lets you send and receive files with nearby Android phones also running Files Go. It's similar to Apple's AirDrop feature. It automatically creates a temporary mobile hotspot to transfer files quickly over Wi-Fi. The storage cleaner tool uses a simple card interface with visual previews to suggest various types of apps and files that may be unnecessary. Tapping a card deletes that data, freeing up storage space on the phone. Manufacturers have recently been adding their own, similar storage-cleaning tools to Android phones. Files Go was released in beta one month ago.


December’s Android Security Patch from Google Arrives

Dec 4, 2017, 4:51 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made its monthly security patch available to some Android devices. December's patch plugs a handful of security holes. Google found a dozen or so vulnerabilities, most of which were classified as moderately dangerous, or able to execute code remotely. Google is pushing a patch dated December 5 to resolve these issues. Google said the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel C, Nexus Player, Nexus 5X, and Nexus 6P devices will receive the December security patches directly over the air. The factory images will be available for download from Google's developer web site shortly. As far as Google knows, none of these security holes have been exploited. Google has already supplied the patches to its handset partners.


Verizon Debuts In-Home LTE Extender, Pixel 2 Promo

Dec 1, 2017, 12:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today announced the Samsung 4G LTE Network Extender 2, a device meant to improve wireless coverage at your house or small business. Like many network extenders, the Samsung 4G LTE Network Extender 2 plugs into your home's wired broadband service. It then provides about 7,500 square feet of LTE coverage, with support for up to 14 simultaneous connections. The extender supports LTE service only, and does not provide 1X or CDMA coverage in the home. The device costs $249, but there is no monthly service fee associated with its use. In other Verizon news, the company rolled out a new promotion for the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones. The company will cut the price of either phone by $300 when purchased on a device payment plan. Customers will need to finance the entire cost of the handset. Verizon will then contribute $300 in total over the course of 24 monthly payments (about $12.50 per month). The Pixel 2 promo kicks off on Sunday.


Google Maps and Google Home Updated for iPhone X

Nov 30, 2017, 3:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today delivered updates to its Google Maps and Google Home applications for the iPhone X. Both apps have been adjusted to account for the iPhone X's taller screen aspect ratio. The updated apps also resolve some bugs and other performance issues. Google has now updated the majority of its core apps for the iPhone X, save for Gmail. Google Maps and Google Home are free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Google Assistant Gains Local Contractor Smarts

Nov 30, 2017, 3:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google says an update to the Google Assistant app for Android and iOS will let people perform searches for more local information, businesses, and service providers. For example, people can say "Ok Google, find me a plumber" to their device, the app will ask some follow-up questions, and then supply a list of local options for plumbers on the smartphone screen. Results cards will include ratings and contact information, and Google says local providers in many cities will be prescreened by third-party organizations such as HomeAdvisor. This update is headed to Google Assistant in the U.S. over the coming week.


Microsoft Edge for Android and iOS Now Available to All

Nov 30, 2017, 10:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said its Edge browser for Android and iOS has exited preview and is now available as a final, public application. Microsoft 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. This final version of the app adds Roaming Passwords, which allow you to save passwords on one device and sync them to others, such as from a phone to a PC and vice versa. The browser also gains a dark theme. Microsoft Edge is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Google's Datally App Helps People Manage Monthly Data

Nov 30, 2017, 8:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced Datally, a new app meant to help mobile device owners manage their data usage thanks to fine-tuned controls. To start, the app lets people view their data usage on an hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly basis. The app will analyze usage over time and deliver personalized recommendations on how to save data. A built-in Data Saver tool automatically turns off background data usage for all apps and provides instant insight on data usage while people use their apps. Datally will scan for public wifi hotspots, too, and help people connect in order to avoid using the mobile network. Google has been testing Datally in the Philippines for several months and says many people have been able to reel in data usage by 30% each month when using the app. Datally is available for free from the Play Store. It runs on devices with Android 5.1 Lollipop and up.


Essential CEO Andy Rubin Takes Leave of Absence

Nov 29, 2017, 2:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Andy Rubin is taking some time away from Essential Products, where he is CEO. The company's day-to-day operations will be handled by president Niccolo de Masi during Rubin's absence. The timing of Rubin's leave coincides with a report from The Information that said Rubin had an inappropriate relationship with an employee during his time at Google. Google investigated the relationship in 2013 and concluded that "Rubin’s behavior was improper and showed bad judgement." He was moved after the investigation from the Android team to Google's robotics division. Rubin later left Google and founded Essential Products. Essential insists the timing of Rubin's leave is not related to The Information's report. "At our last regularly scheduled board meeting earlier in November, Andy asked for a leave of absence to deal with personal matters," said the company in a statement provided to The Verge. Essential makes the PH-1 smartphone, a high-end Android handset. The PH-1 went on sale earlier this year for $699, but has since been discounted to $499 amidst slow sales. The device is available unlocked from Essential, and it is also sold by Sprint.


Google Docs, Slides, Sheets Updated for iOS 11 and iPhone X

Nov 28, 2017, 8:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated its core productivity apps for iOS 11 and the iPhone X. On the iOS 11 front, Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides specifically gain support for drag-and-drop behaviors of the iPad. Users can select content in one app and drag it to another. This is particularly helpful when moving complicated items such as tables or graphs between documents. On the iPhone X, the apps gain support for the extended screen aspect ratio. Google has updated many of its apps for the iPhone X, including Chrome, Google Search, Google Assistant, Google Drive, and Google Photos. The two notable exceptions are Gmail and Google Maps, which have yet to be optimized for the newest iPhone.


Google Releases Final Android 8.1 Beta to Developers

Nov 27, 2017, 1:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 27, 2017, 1:44 PM

Google today made the second and final developer preview of Android 8.1 Oreo available to app writers and beta testers. The refreshed beta represents the OS is final form according to Google, though some bugs remain. Notably, Android 8.1 unlocks the Pixel Visual Core on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. This will allow app developers to put the Pixel phones' HDR+ mode to use in their own imaging apps. This update to Android includes a significant number of under-the-hood changes. For example, apps can take advantage of hardware acceleration for on-device machine learning operations. Android 8.1 makes changes to notifications, helps developers target low-RAM devices, and improves Oreo's autofill behaviors. Developers gain a bevy of new tools, such as the Safe Browsing API for detecting threats, the Shared Memory API for creating apps that are able to share memory resources, and the Wallpapercolors API for tweaking wallpapers. Other updates include the ability to assign new behaviors to the fingerprint reader on Android handsets, such as permanently lockout users who fail too many times to unlock their device with a fingerprint. The Android 8.1 Oreo Developer Preview 2 is available to registered developers and Android beta testers. Google has made system images available for direct installation on compatible handsets, though an over-the-air update will also reach registered Google users in the near future. The beta is compatible with the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, and Pixel C. Google expects to release the final version of Android 8.1 Oreo to devices starting in December.


Instagram Now Lets People Request to Join Live Video

Nov 21, 2017, 2:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today made it possible for people to join the live video broadcasts of their friends. The app now includes a "request" button that will ping the person streaming live video. That person can review, accept, or reject incoming requests. Once accepted, users will be notified that they're about to go live. The joined live view jumps to split-screen with the original broadcaster in one window and you in the other. Either party can leave the shared video stream at any time. Facebook says live videos may be shared to stories or discarded immediately. The new feature is available to the Android and iOS mobile Instagram apps, which are free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.


Verizon Details Black Friday Deals with 50% Off Flagships

Nov 21, 2017, 8:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless is offering big discounts on this year's top phones through its Black Friday sale. Verizon will cover up to $378 off the price of the Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+, or Note8, the Google Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL, or the Moto Z2 Force. Customers will need to sign up for Verizon's unlimited plan, but no trade-in is required. Customers will need to purchase the device, whether up front or financed, and Verizon will break down the $378 reimbursement in account credits over a period of 24 months. In other deals, Verizon will sell you a 32 GB iPad for $199 if you activate it on a two-year plan, or for $99 when purchased alongside an iPhone. These discounts are available online November 23 and in stores November 24 only. Verizon has other sales that begin Thursday and run through November 27. For example, customers can save $50 on a Google Home, $20 on a Google Home Mini, $20 on Google Daydream View, or $15 on a Chromecast Ultra. Verizon will discount the price of many Android handsets by $100 when activated with an unlimited plan. Last, Verizon is discounting tons of accessories, including FitBit wearables, Ultimate Ears and JBL Bluetooth speakers, and Nest smartphone products.


Gboard Speaks 40 New Languages, Including Japanese

Nov 21, 2017, 8:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 27, 2017, 5:19 PM

Google has updated its Gboard keyboard application for Android devices and added a handful of new features along the way. Primarily, the app gains support for 40 new languages, such as Japanese. The app also adds to the default Gboard sticker selection, fixes bugs, and improvements performance. Gboard is free to download from the Google Play Store.


US Cellular Offering Free iPhone 8, Galaxy S8, or LG G6

Nov 20, 2017, 1:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

U.S. Cellular today announced a holiday offering that will provide customers with a free flagship smartphone. The company will give customers a free Samsung Galaxy S8, iPhone 8, LG G6, or Motorola Moto Z Force when they sign up for an unlimited plan between November 22 and November 27. Customers will need to trade-in a recent flagship, such as the Galaxy S6, iPhone 6, or V20, to score the free phone. The free handset will be comped through monthly rebates over a period of 30 months. Customers who don't have a device to trade in can get a reduced-cost flagship for a monthly payment of just $10 in addition to the unlimited plan. U.S. Cellular's unlimited plan costs $70 for a single line, though multi-line discounts are available. U.S. Cellular offers up to 22 GB of high-speed data per billing cycle. Customers who exceed that limit will see speeds reduced to 2G for the remained of the month. The company is also offering discounts on Google Home, LG Tones, and Parrot Drones during its holiday sale. Last, customers who refer a family member or friend who signs up for service can score a $50 reward.


Google to Patch Pixel 2 Earpiece Buzz Within a Few Weeks

Nov 20, 2017, 12:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google said it plans to resolve an issue plaguing the Pixel 2 earpiece in the near future. "We're rolling out a software update in the coming weeks which eliminates a faint buzzing sound on some Pixel 2 devices when the phone is placed to your ear during a phone call," said Google in a post on its support forums. Some Pixel 2 owners report hearing the buzzing or crackling sound when making calls. Google first acknowledged the issue in October, but hadn't specified when a fix might be offered. It now appears the resolution will arrive by early December.


Google Lens Reaches Pixel Handsets

Nov 20, 2017, 8:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 20, 2017, 8:23 AM

Google has updated Google Assistant on its Pixel smartphones and added the Google Lens tool it first announced back in May. Google Lens is an image-recognition function that relies on mobile cameras to perform searches. Google Lens is a significant advancement to the old Google Image Search app. Google says its neural networks are better than humans at recognizing most objects. Using Google Lens, Pixel owners can aim their camera at just about anything and Google will instantly perform a search and suggest results. The tool works within Google Assistant on the Pixel handsets, as well as within Google Photos. For example, users can snap a shot of an old car on the street and immediately gain information about that car and discover where it might be available for sale. Google Lens can recognize objects such as flowers, vehicles, gadgets, and more. The update to Pixel devices is rolling out now. Google hasn't said when Google Lens might reach other Android handsets.


Google Endows Assistant with More App Smarts

Nov 15, 2017, 3:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a comprehensive update to the Google Assistant. Most of the changes are meant for developers, but everyone will benefit from Assistant's improved ability to interact with third-party applications. To start, Assistant will help people find apps in a more seamless and natural way. For example, updates to the app directory will surface trending sections that change over time. New subcategories are on deck, as well, which will break down directories to provide more fine-tuned results. Google says it is able to do this by using the description developers provide for their apps and keyboard match that text with spoken voice queries made by end users. Finding apps will be aided by implicit discovery, as well, or the ability to connect with an app using contextual queries, such as "fix my bike." Developers will have access to badges that call out family-friendly apps, as well as expanded international support thanks to the addition of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. Other changes target how apps use Assistant to interact directly with people, such as transferring phone calls from the Google Home to a smartphone. Apps will have new powers for handling the end of conversations, such as providing polite or informative farewells, cancelling requests, and finding the right time to suggest account linking. Last, Google wants to ensure developers and their Assistant-powered apps are engaging with users. Moving forward, apps will be able to provide daily updates, gentle suggestions, and push notifications (thanks to a new API.) For example, Google says developers will be able to send alerts via Assistant about upcoming sales or discounts to those who've expressed interest. Google is encouraging developers to put these new tools to use within their Assistant-connected apps. Google hopes the end result will be more useful and informative apps for end users that are discovered and accessed via Google Assistant.


Google Refreshes Maps to Help Aid Navigation

Nov 15, 2017, 1:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a significant change to the appearance of Google Maps. According to Google, it has updated the look of driving, navigation, and transit maps in a way so ancillary information is more visible, such as gas stations when driving or train stations when riding the rails. Maps now relies on a new color scheme to define its legend and (hopefully) make it easier for people to differentiate between points of interest based on color alone. For example, orange signifies food and drink options, while green is for outdoor spaces, and purple is for roadside services. Google believes once people understand the color scheme, they'll be able to spot what they want or need quicker when using Google Maps. Google says this change will impact all versions of Maps (mobile, desktop), as well as other Google services that rely on Maps, such as Assistant, Search, Earth, and Android Auto. The changes will be rolled out over the next few weeks.


Google Overhauls Its Home Media App

Nov 14, 2017, 12:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released a new version of Google Home, the mobile app smartphone owners use to interact with their Google Home speaker and Chromecast dongles. Google says the revised application should make it easier to find content to share with connected speakers and television sets. To start, the app has been given a full visual makeover that Google claims is more intuitive. It now recommends content from all the user's connected media services, such as Spotify or Netflix, so music and movies are simpler to start streaming. Search has been improved and can now handle keyword searches based on actor, artist, genre, or category. Google Home can now be used to cast movie trailers to a connected TV. Last, the app gives people more control over their entire viewing and listening experience. For example, the redesigned controllers give people the ability to tweak bass or treble on supported speakers, including the Google Home device. The Google Home companion app is free to download from the Play Store.


Google Home's Broadcast Feature Goes Live

Nov 13, 2017, 12:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today enabled the broadcast feature on Google Home devices in English in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Canada. Now, people with Google Home devices in their house can broadcast announcements or statements from their phone-based Google Assistant to their Home device. For example, parents can say “Ok Google, broadcast I’m on my way home!” to the Assistant on their phone, and it will broadcast to their Google Home for those to hear. People will need to be signed into the same Google Assistant account on all devices for this to work. Google first announced the broadcast feature earlier this year. Broadcast will become available to more languages and countries over time.


Google Testing Beta of 'Files Go' App for Managing Phone Storage

Nov 9, 2017, 9:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is testing a new application for Android phones that can help people better manage on-device storage. Files Go, according to Google, can be put to use to clean up space and keep files organized. For example, it can identify rarely-used apps, spam, and duplicate images that can all be removed to free up storage. Files Go's built-in search tools can assist in finding photos, videos, and documents. The app also makes it easy to quickly and securely share files offline. The app itself is small at just 6 MB. Files Go Beta is free to download from the Google Play Store, though Google warns it may still be buggy.


Skype Now Lets You Dress Up Your Photos with Stickers and Effects

Nov 9, 2017, 8:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype has updated its mobile app with new tools for customizing pictures similar to Instagram and Snapchat. The photo effects include face stickers, captions, celebrity lookalikes, location and weather, and face swaps for adding a dash of whimsy to shared images. A "magic wand" button appears on the screen after users snap a photo and provides access to the effects tools. Photos can then be shared with friends and family via chat or highlights. Microsoft says the sticker selections will change over time, especially as holidays come and go. The new version of Skype is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Google Targeting Unwanted Redirects In Chrome

Nov 9, 2017, 8:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google plans to add new safety features to its Chrome browser over the coming weeks that will address user complaints regarding several types of shady behavior. First, Chrome 64 will attempt to foil unwanted redirects. Google says the browser will show any and all redirects originating from third-party frames in a new infobar rather than allowing the redirects to move forward. This will give users the opportunity to remain on the original page they were reading, or to jump to the new content if they wish. Often, these redirects come from aggressive web ads. Second, Chrome 65 will tackle pop-unders. Sometimes when browsing, users click on a link that opens the content they want in a new tab while at the same time the original tab navigates to an unwanted page. Google says some web site purveyors use this method to circumvent popup ads. In Chrome 65, Google will detect this behavior and trigger an infobar, once again giving people the choice to move forward while preserving the original tab. Further down the road, Google hopes too address hard-to-detect behaviors that might include links to third-party web sites disguised as play buttons or other site controls, or transparent overlays on web sites that capture all clicks and open new tabs or windows. These are frequently the cause of user complaints and Google will do what it can to prevent or minimize them.


Google Search and Maps to Show Live Restaurant Wait Times

Nov 7, 2017, 11:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google can now let you know just how long the wait will be at your favorite restaurant. Google is adding live wait times to Google Search and Google Maps. Moving forward, the Popular Times section in search results includes an estimated wait time that's live to the moment. Google says tapping any of the hour bars in the Popular Times section displays the average wait for that time of day. Summaries of each day's wait times are available when scrolling left or right. This new tool is being added to Google Search first, with Google Maps to follow shortly.


Google Boosts Pixel 2 XL Display Color In System Update

Nov 7, 2017, 8:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google says the November security update for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL includes several behavioral and bug fixes to address user complaints. To start, the new software should resolve the clicking noise heard in some Pixel 2 earpieces during phone calls. Moreover, the update adds a new saturated color mode and tweaks maximum brightness settings for both displays to increase color saturation and lead to a brighter look. Google says the update also ensures the UI will avoid behaviors that might lead to screen burn-in. "These features have been carefully designed so as not to detract from the user experience," explained Google. "Since all OLED displays experience some degree of decay over time, we’ll continue to make enhancements which maximize the life of your Pixel screen." Some users complained of muted colors in the phones' displays, as well as burn-in on the Pixel 2 XL. Other changes in the update include improved Bluetooth pairing and media data visibility with older accessories, as well as improved speed and autofocus behaviors in the camera. The last set of tweaks adjust headphone volume warnings and YouTube's ability to switch from WiFi to LTE during playback. The system downloads for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are rolling out over the air gradually. Google plans to bring further enhancements to the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL via the December security update.


Google Assistant Now Recognizes Songs On Request

Nov 6, 2017, 5:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google Assistant on Android handsets is now able to identify songs playing in the background. As long as the music is audible, querying the Assistant with "what song is this?" will cause the app to listen for several seconds and identify the song. Results include the song title, artist, album, lyrics, and links to associated online music services, such as YouTube, Spotify, and Google Play. The feature is free to use and is being rolled out gradually. Google's new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL handsets include a song-recognizing feature that runs in the background and displays the song/artist information on the ambient display.


Google Pixel and Nexus Devices Gain November Security Patch

Nov 6, 2017, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made its monthly security update available to its branded Android devices. November's patch plugs a handful of security holes that threaten Android devices. Google found dozens of vulnerabilities, most of which were classified as moderately dangerous though some were rated as high and others as critical. Some of problems are related to specific hardware and the associated software drivers that control them, such as components from MediaTek, Nvidia, and Qualcomm. Other vulnerabilities impact the kernel, system, and media framework directly. Google is pushing a patch dated November 5 to resolve these issues. Google said the Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel C, Nexus Player, Nexus 5X, and Nexus 6P devices will receive the November security patch directly over the air. The updated factory image for each of these devices is available for download from Google's developer web site. Google says none of these security holes have yet been exploited. Google already supplied the patches to its handset partners and will soon get one to AOSP.


Samsung Letting Galaxy S8 Owners Test Drive Android 8

Nov 2, 2017, 4:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said select customers will soon be able to beta test Samsung Experience 9.0 before its official release. The Samsung Experience, formerly called TouchWiz, is the user interface that Samsung created for its device ecosystem. Starting November 2, Galaxy S8 and S8+ users based in the U.S., U.K., and South Korea will have access to Samsung Experience 9.0, which is based on Android 8 Oreo. Samsung hopes to use the beta period to assess user feedback and fine-tune the platform before its release for "the next flagship Galaxy device." Interested beta testers will need to have an active Samsung account and meet certain (unspecified) requirements. Samsung said the beta may be distributed via the Samsung+ app in the U.S., which is available from the Google Play Store. People can apply to test Samsung Experience 9.0 through the app.


Google Overhauls YouTube Kids App for Mobile Devices

Nov 2, 2017, 4:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today pushed out a significant update to its YouTube Kids mobile application, giving both kids and their parents new features to enjoy. For example, kids can create their own profiles each with a customized appearance. The app is more fine-tuned for children's ages. Older kid will see more content on the home screens, while younger kids will be served less text. For parents, the app has a new setup process to help them select the content that's most appropriate for their kids. Last, kids get their own passcodes to protect their profile so siblings can't make unwanted changes. Google says the kid passcode can be overridden by adults. YouTube Kids is free to download.


T-Mobile to Sell HTC U11 Life Mid-Ranger for $349

Nov 2, 2017, 2:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC today announced the U11 Life, a mid-range handset that resembles the company’s U11 flagship though it tones down specs to reach a reasonable price point. The U11 Life is almost identical to the U11 at a glance, but it trades the U11’s high-quality glass for plastic. HTC achieved the mirror-like finish by using a clear acrylic exterior with metallic paint on the inside surface. The point, according to HTC, is to give people a device that looks like a flagship at a more affordable cost. The U11 Life has a 5.2-inch full HD LCD display and it is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor with 3 GB of memory and 32 GB of storage. The U11 Life has a 16-megapixel camera at f/2.0 on both the back and the front. Where the rear camera has phase-detection autofocus, the front camera has fixed focus. The device does include the U11’s squeezable Edge Sense feature for initiating certain actions. Other features include USB-C noise-cancelling earbuds, HTC Alexa voice assistant, IP67 water resistance, and Android 7 Nougat. (HTC will update the phone to Android 8 Oreo by the end of November.) Perhaps most importantly, the U11 Life will be widely available to U.S. consumers. T-Mobile plans to sell the phone and feature it in stores as a “Smart Pick.” The U11 Life will be sold unlocked from HTC starting on November 2 and should hit T-Mobile stores the following day, November 3. The U11 Life is priced at under $349.


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