Google today released an SDK that developers can use to add the Google Assistant to all manner of different gadgets and devices. Assistant made its debut in the Allo messaging app, and later arrived on Pixel smartphones, Google Home, Android Wear smartwatches, and other hardware. These have the distinction of all being Google-made products. Thanks to the new SDK, developers, tinkerers, and device makers of all kinds will be able to bring Google Assistant to their gear, for example, Smart Mirrors. Google says this initial SDK is a preview and not everything will work. For example, it is still working to include features such as hotword support. Developers interested in Assistant should visit Google's developer web site.
GBoard for Android gained a handful of helpful new features thanks to a fresh update from Google. The keyboard application now comes with a dedicated text editing mode that includes buttons for common actions such as copy, cut, and paste. Moreover, cursor control has been refined and is simpler to use. These tools can be reached by pressing the G button. Gboard now also allows users to resize the keyboard and reposition it on the screen for improved one-handed use. This can be particularly helpful on phones with large screens. Last, GBoard adds a significant number of new Indic languages, including Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, and Gujarati, complete with transliteration. Google says machine learning has helped it expand GBoard to a total of 185 languages, all with glide-typing support. GBoard for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today announced several new features for its Google Trips tool. Trips already will automatically create travel cards based on user emails with flight, hotel, and car reservations. The new version of Google Trips now lets people simply and manually enter new details for these and other aspects of their trip, in addition to freeform travel notes, to accommodate last-minute changes. Travel cards can be shared directly with others via email so everyone has access to the trip details ahead of time. Trips gains better access to bus and train travel data, too, and can save previous trips, routes, and time schedules to help people plan new adventures. Last, Trips now allows people to download their travel data to their handset for offline access. Google Trips is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Google today updated its Google Home product with the ability to walk people through various recipes. Google Assistant can dictate step-by-step cooking instructions for more than 5 million recipes. Google says people need only pick a recipe from the Google Search app on their iOS or Android smartphone and hit the new "Send to Google Home" button to save the recipe to their Google Assistant. The recipe can be recalled anytime on the Google Home by using the "Ok Google, start cooking" command. Google Home will then guide people through the recipe until it is done. People will be able to ask questions about specific steps along the way, as well as listen to music, make measurement conversions, set timers, and more. Google said the new feature is being rolled out over the next few weeks. Google didn't say if the recipe tool will be available from Android smartphones that include Google Assistant.
Google has this week made good on previous promises to make it easier for people to locate their cars after parking them. Maps for Android and iOS is being updated with a dedicated "Save Your Parking" tool that lets people not only pinpoint the location of their car on a map, but add details such as floor level, section, or parking spot for large parking structures. Further, Maps users can set timers to coincide with parking meters complete with custom alerts before the meter runs out. Last, people will also be able to share their parking location with others in instances that require people to meet at a parked car. On iOS devices connected to cars via Bluetooth, Maps will automatically record the parking spot when the owner disconnects and walks away from the vehicle. Google Maps has offered rudimentary parking spot help for some time. These new features allow people to take more control and add details that Maps didn't previously offer. Google Maps for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.
Google today announced several improvements headed to its Chrome browser for Android devices. Primarily, the newest version of Chrome is better at translating languages. Google says Chrome is gaining neural machine translation for nine more language pairs including to and from English for Indonesian and eight Indian languages: Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, and Telugu. Google says neural machine translation will improve how web sites in English read when translated to these languages. Chrome for Android is also improving the behavior of downloads and making it easier to manage the app's browsing history. Chrome for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today said travelers will have access to a wider range of local reviews thanks to new translation features. Moving forward, Google said it will automatically translate reviews of restaurants, theaters, and other locations into the language you’ve set on your device. The translated reviews will be followed by the original. This feature is available to Google Search and Google Maps.
Google and Samsung today said starting with the launch of the Galaxy S8 and S8+, Google Play Music will be the default music player and music service on Samsung phones and tablets globally. Consumers who buy the S8 or S8+ will receive a free three-month trial of Google Play Music, which offers ad-free access to some 40 million tracks. The trial also includes YouTube Red, an ad-free version of YouTube. Moreover, Samsung device owners will receive special features from Google. To start, S8 and S8+ buyers will be able to upload up to 100,000 of their own tracks to Google Play Music for safekeeping (double the standard amount.) Google says more custom features for Samsung phones are on the way. Last, Google Play Music will be compatible with Samsung's Bixby voice assistant when Bixby launchers later this spring. Galaxy S8 and S8+ owners will be able to ask Bixby to play their favorite song and it’ll start playing on Google Play Music instantly. The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ go on sale today.
Google today made it possible for up to six people to get personalized results from its Google Home product. Using the refreshed Google Home mobile app, Home owners can train the device to recognize individual voices for everyone in your house. Google says it is able to do this through the use of neural networks. Once properly trained, people will be able to ask Google Home for their daily schedule, preferred news, commute details, and personal playlists. The functionality requires the latest Home app from Google on each associated account. This feature will start rolling out today for Google Home users in the U.S., but will expand to the U.K. in the coming months. Google Home is a $129 in-home connected speaker that relies on the same Google Assistant app found on Android handsets.
Google is planning to add a limited ad-blocking feature to its Chrome browser for both mobile and desktop platforms, according to the Wall Street Journal. The feature would only block the most obnoxious ads, such as pop-ups, those that auto-play sound, and overlays with a timer before you can view content. These specific ad types have been determined to be "beneath a threshold of consumer acceptability" by the Coalition for Better Ads. Google's plans for the feature are still in flux. Chrome may block only these ad types, or it may block all ads on sites that display some offending ads. The company has not yet announced the feature, and could still decide not to launch it. Google earned $60 billion in revenue last year from online advertising.
Microsoft has a new tool for Android and iOS device owners to use when signing into Microsoft accounts. The phone sign-in functionality relies on the Microsoft Authenticator. People can add their Microsoft account to either the Android or iOS version of the Microsoft Authenticator mobile app. Then, when signing into a new Microsoft app, people will only have to put in their username. The Authenticator will pop up a notification on users' phones that, once approved, unlocks access to the new app. "This process is easier than standard two-step verification and significantly more secure than only a password, which can be forgotten, phished, or compromised," said Microsoft in a blog post. Microsoft Authenticator is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Along with the new Google Earth mobile app for Android devices and Chrome desktop browsers, Google today updated Google Earth VR for Android. Moving forward, people can type addresses or locations in Google Earth VR and they'll be whisked away to any location on the globe. The tool also gains 27 new locations for detailed exploring, such as mountains, glaciers, and castles. Google Earth VR is available to Android handsets for free.
Snapchat today introduced a new way to use its Lenses feature in a way that the company says is more interactive. When using the rear camera, Snapchatters can discover new Lenses that can "paint the word around you with new 3D experiences." These new Lenses include sticker-like animations that float and move around people within Snapchat images. The 3D Lenses are available in an update to the Android and iOS mobile Snapchat app. Snapchat is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.
Huawei today made its new smartwatch, the Watch 2, available from various online retailers for $300. The device runs Android Wear 2.0 from Google and includes GPS, a heart rate monitor, NFC, 420 mAh battery, and a 1.2-inch AMOLED display. The Watch 2 is rated IP68 for water resistance. Huawei says the standard model can be purchased from Best Buy, Target, Jet, Walmart, B&H, and others. The company expects to bring the Watch 2 Classic to the U.S. later this year for $369. Huawei has no plans to bring the LTE variant of the Watch 2 to the U.S. right now.
Google today made the Timeline tool of Google Maps available to iOS devices. Timeline tracks users' movements based on their location, providing a clear picture of where they've been, for how long, and how they got there. Timelines can be useful for recalling information about unfamiliar places you may have visited, as well as keeping tabs on your favorite locations. Users are in control of what appears in their Timeline. The feature gives people full control over deleting specific locations, routes, days, and even the entire travel history. People can customize their typical mode of transportation, as well as view place cards of locations or businesses they’ve previously visited. Last, Timeline will provide monthly recaps to iOS users via email with summaries of the cities, countries, and places they’ve visited over the previous month. Timeline is optional and can be disabled. Google Maps is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Timeline has been available to Android devices for some time.
Google's Android Pay service is now compatible with PayPal. The companies today announced that Android Pay users can opt to use their PayPal account as a source of funds when making tap-and-go payments at retail stores or on the web. PayPal via Android Pay will stand in for a debit or credit card. People will be able to link their accounts from either app. Android Pay and PayPal will gain this functionality through an update to their respective mobile apps in the coming weeks. Google recently added in-app Android Pay compatibility with several mobile banking apps. The moves are meant to help coax more people to use Google's mobile payment service.
Google today released a brand new version of Google Earth that it has spent two years crafting. This revised Google Earth is all about giving people more ways to view things thanks to changing perspectives, new zooming behaviors, and, of course, plenty of ways to share. Google Earth now includes Voyager, a tool for exploring and taking guided tours on the planet's most famous locations. For example, Natural Treasures from BBC Earth will take you to caves, jungles, and more, while the refreshed "I’m feeling lucky" search button will randomly select an interesting spot and tell you everything. Maps includes a wider variety of Knowledge Cards that provide details about places around the globe. Google Earth gains more 3D content, as well, allowing people to swoop through the Grand Canyon or check out European castles from every angle. The new Google Earth is available on the web in Google's Chrome browser as well as a new dedicated mobile app for Android devices. Google says it will bring the new Google Earth to iOS and more browsers in the future.
Verizon Wireless today said its Wear24 Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch will go on sale May 11. Verizon announced the device earlier this year, but did not have availability details at the time. The Wear24 costs $349, but Verizon will cut $50 from the price for those willing to sign two-year agreements. The Wear24 is compatible with Verizon's LTE network and can share a phone number with smartphones for seamless messaging and calls. The smartwatch has a 1.39-inch display with 360 by 360 pixels. The Wear24 also includes NFC with support for Android Pay, a 450mAh battery, and a rating of IP67 for water resistance up to 30 minutes in 1 meter of water. Android Wear 2.0 includes advanced messaging tools, an on-device app store, and the Google Assistant. Verizon subscribers can add the Wear24 watch to their existing plan for $5 per month. Otherwise, the Wear24 requires Verizon's $10 Single Device Plan, which provides unlimited talk and text, and up to 1 GB of LTE data per month.
Google today expanded the availability of its Family Link application to iOS devices. 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. Google is offering Family Link through an early access program. Parents interested in testing it can request an invitation directly from Google. Though parents can now use Family Link from an iPhone, the child's handset still needs to run Android 7 Nougat and up. Family Link for iOS is available from the iTunes App Store.
The latest version of Google Photos for Android devices includes a new video stabilization tool. Google's software goes beyond what the individual phone's own hardware and software do to improve videos. Using the Google Photos in-app editing function, people can apply the stabilization technique to their video clips at any time. The app automatically saves a new, stabilized copy of the clip and maintains the original clip in its pure form. The results are slightly cropped when compared to the original. Google Photos for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google has partnered with a small number of financial institutions in order to ease the process of signing up for Android Pay. Several banks, including Bank of America, Bank of New Zealand, Discover, mBank, and USAA, now let customers add debit/credit cards directly to Android Pay from within the mobile banking app. Typically, cards are managed in the Android Pay app itself. After completing the setup process, customers of these banks will be able to use the tap-to-pay functionality of Android Pay at millions of stores and on millions of web sites. Some of the apps support Android Pay even if the Android Pay app itself is not installed on the phone. People can also manage bank card choices, such as setting defaults, as well as manage card security by deactivating cards from their phone. Android Pay is free to download from the Google Play Store. Google's banking partners plan to update their mobile apps with support for Android Pay in the weeks ahead.
Google today expanded the availability of web-based virtual reality content to Google Cardboard. Google first brought WebVR to Chrome for Daydream-compatible devices earlier this year. Now, most any Android handset can access virtual reality content through the Chrome browser with Google Cardboard. People who don't have Daydream or Cardboard viewers handy can use their mouse or finger to pan around 3D content directly in the browser. In addition to expanding web-based virtual reality to Cardboard, Google launched WebVR Experiments, a showcase of the experiences developers are building for browser-based virtual reality. There, people can take a look at and sample WebVR projects, apps, and games.
Google hopes the latest addition to its Chrome browser will make reading web sites less frustrating. The tool, called scroll anchoring, will prevent web sites from bouncing users up and down the screen. As Google explains, "annoying page jumps typically happen when the web site inserts an image or other content above the visible area, pushing down what’s on the screen." The result is often grating, as it forces people to navigate back to where they were on the screen to continue reading or viewing. "Scroll anchoring locks the content you’re currently looking at to the screen, keeping you in the same spot so you can keep reading," says Google. Google suggests web developers check out the technical details on its developer web site. Google didn't specify exactly which version of Chrome carries the new feature. Chrome is free to download from the Google Play Store and is preinstalled on most Android handsets.
LG indicated via its Google+ page that it intends to update a handful of its oldest smartwatches to Android Wear 2.0. First up are the G Watch R and Watch Urbane, which should receive the new operating system this week. The Watch Urbane 2nd Ed. will see Android Wear 2.0 in early May. The new operating system has been wholly rethought by Google. It includes significant usability tweaks, and core features such as messaging and Google Assistant. In February, LG launched some of the first new watches to ship with the revised platform aboard, the Watch Sport and Watch Style. The G Watch R was one of the very first Android-based smartwatches to reach the market.
Twitter today launched Twitter Lite, an new version of its mobile web site that acts like a full mobile app but is designed for markets with slow and/or expensive data service. The web app uses the latest features of Google Chrome for Android to offer app-like features, such as push notifications, an offline mode, and a home screen icon. Twitter Lite takes up less than 1 MB on a device, and it has a data-saver mode that provides a rough preview of photos and videos — plus size information — so users can manually choose which media to download and view. It is designed with developing markets in mind, but is available to everyone now at mobile.twitter.com.
YouTube today launched its YouTube TV service in five major U.S. markets: Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. YouTube TV gives cord cutters a way to watch live television online. As of today's launch, YouTube TV offers more than 40 television networks, including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN, USA, FX, Disney Channel, Sprout, E! and Bravo. YouTube TV plans to add AMC, BBC America, IFC, Sundance TV, WE tv, and BBC World News soon. Showtime is available for an extra monthly fee. The monthly service is accessible from mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets, and PCs, and Android and iOS device users can cast YouTube TV shows to their Chromecast-equipped TV. YouTube TV includes a cloud-based DVR with unlimited storage for saving and accessing shows from practically anywhere. Google allows people to store recordings for free for up to nine months. Each YouTube TV subscription includes up to six individual accounts for personalized recommendations and DVR recording. YouTube TV costs $35 per month and doesn't require any contracts or commitments.
Apple today released Apple Music 2.0 for Android handsets and the app introduces a number of features found on the iOS version. To start, Apple Music for Android drops all elements of Google's Material Design in favor of Apple's app design language. The Android app user interface now mirrors that of the iOS version. In-app navigation is simplified thanks to four major sections, called Library, For You, Browse, and Radio. These make it easier for people to move through the app to find their own music or new tunes recommended by Apple. Apple Music 2.0 for Android also adds on-screen song lyrics and larger album art. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store, but the service costs $10 per month.
Google has released the final, public build of Android 7.1.2 for the Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel C, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, and Nexus Player devices. Google says Android 7.1.2 focuses on refinements, bug fixes, and other unspecified optimizations for both end users and carriers. Google has been testing the platform with developers since January. Google posted factory images and OTA links to its web site, though the update will reach devices automatically in the days ahead.
Google today provided details about its April 2017 security patches for Android devices. The patches plug a significant number of security holes that threaten all Android devices. Google found more than 60 vulnerabilities, of which it classified eight as critical, or able to remotely execute code. Many of the problems are related to specific hardware and the associated software drivers that control them, such as a MediaTek touchscreen driver and a Qualcomm crypto engine driver. Google is pushing two separate patches to cover these vulnerabilities, one dated April 1 and the second dated April 5. As always, Google is pushing the patches directly to its own Nexus- and Pixel-branded devices first. Google has already posted factory images for download directly from its web site. Google's handsets will receive both patches in a single download. Google said that, as far as it is aware, none of these security holes have been exploited for nefarious purposes. Google has already given the patches to its OEM partners. Phone makers are responsible for updating their own hardware with the patches.
Google today announced PAX, a patent-licensing initiative for Android that the company hopes will help resolve and/or prevent patent-related threats. Companies that join PAX give each other royalty-free patent licenses that cover Android and Google applications on compatible devices. The founding members of PAX include Google, Samsung, LG, Foxconn, HMD Global, HTC, Coolpad, BQ, and Allview. Together, these companies own some 230,000 patents. Google says the patent pool will only grow as more companies join the network. "We believe PAX will further expand the openness of Android for its members, promoting patent peace that will free up time and money for members, who can then dedicate those resources to creating new ideas," said Google. PAX is free for companies to join. Electronics companies often use technology patents as revenue sources, and litigate in order to seek payment. PAX may help reduce patent-based litigation depending on which companies join and what patents are cross-licensed with the group.
Google today added a feature to Google WiFi called Scheduled Pause. The tool is meant to help families control and manage when devices can and cannot access the internet. Using on-device settings, Google WiFi owners can schedule brief pauses in connectivity to assist everyday activities around the home, such as bedtime, dinner, and homework, by making WiFi inaccessible. Google says Scheduled Pause is primarily meant to help parents control screen time in the home. The tool is free to use.
Google has pulled back the reigns on its deployment of Android Wear 2.0. Earlier this week the company said select smartwatches should expect to see the update soon. However, Google ran into some trouble. "We have started rolling out the Android Wear 2.0 update to Fossil Q Founder, Casio Smart Outdoor Watch WSD-F10 and Tag Heuer Connected," said Google in a statement provided to 9to5Google. "For other devices, the update is currently being delayed due to a bug found in final testing. We will push the update to the remaining devices as soon as the issue is resolved." Google didn't say how long it might take to resolve the bug. Android Wear 2.0 is eventually expected to reach the Asus ZenWatch 2 and 3; Casio Smart Outdoor and Pro Trek Smart; Fossil Q Marshal and Wander; Huawei Watch; LG G Watch R, Watch Urbane, Watch Urbane 2nd Ed; Moto 360 (2nd Gen and Sport); and New Balance RunIQ.
Google's new Reserve with Google service makes it possible to find, book, and pay for fitness classes pretty much anywhere in the U.S. Reserve with Google is available to mobile and desktop devices and works together with Google Maps and Google Search to find fitness studios, classes, ratings, rates, and more. Filters allow people to pinpoint the particular style of fitness class they want, discover class recommendations, and book spots locally or anywhere they might choose to travel. Google says the in-app payment tool will let people take advantage of introductory offers, as well as buy class packages or memberships. Google is working with companies such as MindBody, MyTime, Genbook, Full Slate, Front Desk, Appointy, and others to supply real-time class inventory around the country. Reserve with Google is free to use.
Google confirmed this week that some Android Wear devices will see the 2.0 update in the coming days. Specifically, the Fossil Q Founder, Casio Smart Outdoor Watch, and Tag Heuer Connected should all begin to receive Android Wear 2.0 today, with the majority of devices updated by April 4. Google first announced Android Wear in May 2016, but didn't ship the wearable platform until early February. Google hasn't said if or when other existing Android-based smartwatches will see the update. A small handful of new smartwatches are shipping with the refreshed platform, including the LG G Watch Style an G Watch Sport.
Google today improved Google Assistant on Android devices and its Google Home product. The assistant can now talk with a wider range of internet-of-things devices for the home, allowing people to take control over more things around their house through voice commands. Specifically, Google Assistant can connect to Best Buy Insignia, LIFX, TP-Link, and Wink products. People can say "Ok Google, turn on the fan," and Google Assistant will do that via the Best Buy Insignia WiFi Smart Plug. People can also control LIFX and TP-Link lighting, as well as adjust their Wink-connected thermostat. Taking advantage of these tools requires turning them on in the Google Home App on a smartphone. Google Assistant is available to most Android 6 Marshmallow and Android 7 Nougat phones.
Google today updated its main Search application for the iPhone and added a widget for the home screen. Technically, iOS doesn't support true home screen widgets other than those in the notification panel. In order to make it work, a 3D Touch of the Search app brings up a "Trending on Google" widget directly on the screen with breaking news, trends, and hot topics. A quick press of any of the cards takes users to the content in question. The widget doesn't support users' customized Google cards, which are still located in the main Google app. People interested in using the widget will need to turn it on manually in the app's settings. Google added other 3D Touch actions, as well. A hard press on the Google app icon opens a set of quick search actions from the home screen, but it now also lets people start a new search from within the Google app itself. A hard press of the G button on the bottom of the screen opens a new search immediately, and a hard press on search results can provide a preview of the content before opening it fully. The Google Search app also now works more seamlessly with Google's GBoard keyboard for the iPhone. Google Search is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
T-Mobile today said baseball fans will be able to watch every regular season Major League Baseball game on their smartphones for free. T-Mobile has again partnered with MLB and is providing customers with access to a free year of MLB.TV Premium, which includes MLB.com At Bat Premium. T-Mobile customers can stream every out-of-market regular season game to their Apple or Google smartphone and tablet via the MLB.TV app. At Bat Premium is a mobile sports app for watching home and away broadcasts, and it also includes player stats, highlights, and other information. T-Mobile One customers don't need to worry about streaming on their plan thanks to unlimited data. T-Mobile says games will be streamed in standard definition by default, but can be viewed in HD if customers wish. The free year-long subscription will available for just 24 hours on April 4. T-Mobile customers will need to redeem the free subscription via the T-Mobile Tuesdays application and then sign up for MLB.TV Premium no later than April 11. T-Mobile made a similar offering to customers last year.
Facebook today expanded the way people are able to share photos and videos by bringing new camera tools to its mobile application. First, the camera is more accessible from within Facebook. A tap will turn it on. The camera includes dozens of effects like masks, frames, and interactive filters that people can apply to their pictures or movies. Reactive effects, specifically for videos, let people interact with on-screen animations in real time. Facebook is partnering with several movie studios and visual artists to ensure that the selection of effects changes over time. Second, Facebook is bringing stories, pioneered by Snapchat and later adopted by Facebook's own Instagram, to the main app. Stories will appear above the news feed and disappear automatically after 24 hours. Stories do not show up directly on users' timelines unless they want them to. Third, the app includes more sharing tools. Stories, as well as regular photos and videos, can be shared directly with others for one-time viewing. Photos and videos sent via the new Direct tool can be seen once, though the recipient will be able to respond. These new features are available to the Android and iPhone versions of Facebook mobile this week. The apps are free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.