Google today rolled out a new plan for its Project Fi wireless service that lets people use more mobile data at a lower cost. Since launch, Project Fi has charged $10 per gigabyte, pro-rated so people pay for exactly the amount of data they use. For example, those who consumed 2.3 GB in a given month were charged $23. This system works well for those who use data sparingly, but it adds up quickly for heavy users. Moving forward, the new Bill Protection plan caps the monthly mobile data expenditure at $60, no matter how much is used. People who exceed 6 GB of data in a given month will still be able to use high-speed data, but once they reach 15 GB in a single billing period they may experience slower speeds. Customers who need more than 15 GB of high-speed data per month can continue to pay the $10-per-gigabyte rate if they wish. Moreover, the unlimited plan still pro-rated data. People who use 1.4 GB of data in a month — even if they're using Bill Protection — will be charged $14 for that data. Last, Bill Protection applies to roaming in more than 135 countries and with data-only SIMs in tablets or laptops. Google says Bill Protection is rolling out today to individual and group plan subscribers. Project Fi is compatible with Google's Nexus and Pixel smartphones, and the Moto X4.
CES is the world's big consumer tech show. Every year we head out to Vegas to check out everything in person. We honor the standouts with our Best of CES awards. This year, five products really caught our eye.
Google today said its Google Assistant is about to be available in far more places than it is today. To start, Google Assistant is headed to Android Auto — both the in-car version and the stand-alone Android app. With Google Assistant available in Android Auto, drivers will be able to listen to their playlists from apps like Spotify or Google Play Music, get quick directions from Google Maps or Waze, and send or receive messages from services like WhatsApp. Google Assistant will soon be available from far more headphones, too. Companies including Jaybird, JBL, LG, and Sony announced Assistant integration with various headphones this week during the Consumer Electronics Show. The experience is optimized for the Google Assistant, which will be easily accessible with the touch of an earbud. Google says Android Assistant is headed to more Android TV devices, as well, including the Nvidia Shield TV, and Sony TVs. Assistant will reach smart TVs from Changhong, Element, Funai, Haier, Hisense, and Westinghouse. Assistant is now compatible with a wider range of smart home products, including some 1,500 devices from 225 brands. Last, Google wants the Assistant's powers to be more obvious to end users. That's why it is calling out Google Actions (similar to Alexa skills) that can be discovered through a new directory. People will be able to explore the Assistant's potential powers from the Assistant app on their Android device or iPhone. The Google Assistant is an AI-powered, voice-activated tool that handles a wide range of queries and requests.
Qualcomm today said a number of leading handset makers have adopted its radio frequency front-end. Some of the OEMs include Google, HTC, LG, Samsung and Sony Mobile. This means these smartphone manufacturers will rely on Qualcomm's hardware to ensure their devices can talk to wireless networks. This is particularly important for T-Mobile, as the RF front end provides comprehensive 600 MHz band (B71) support. T-Mobile is deploying LTE on its 600 MHz spectrum now and plans to use it for 5G service down the road. The RF front end includes a modem-to-antenna system using the new QPM26xx series gallium arsenide-based power amplifier module. The module contains duplexers, envelope tracker, antenna tuners, antenna switches, and discrete and integrated filter modules. Qualcomm says its RF front end supports features such as Gigabit LTE, 4x4 MIMO and LTE Advanced today, and will evolve to handle 5G technologies in 2019.
Qualcomm's Smart Audio Platform now supports Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana. The idea is to make it easier for hardware makers to add voice assistant features to their devices, such as smart speakers and other smart home gear. The platform will reduce the time and development cost to bring such functions to various designs for in-home use. In addition to Google Assistant, the Smart Audio Platform includes support for Android Things, Google Cast for audio. and other Google services. "The integrated platform is designed to bring together a unique combination of processing capability, connectivity options, voice user interfaces and premium audio technologies to help meet increasing consumer demand for comprehensively featured, highly intuitive smart speakers," said Qualcomm. The Smart Audio Platform is powered by a quad-core ARM A53 processor and includes Qualcomm's Hexagon Audio DSP, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2 Low Energy with aptX and aptX HD, audio playback for various codecs, far-field microphones, beam forming, echo cancellation, and noise suppression. The Qualcomm Smart Audio Platform with support for Amazon Alexa is already in production, while the Smart Audio Platform for Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana is expected to be generally available in the first half of 2018.
Qualcomm today announced the Low Power Bluetooth SoC QCC5100 Series module for wearables and hearables. The SoC is meant to empower small form factor hardware by reducing power requirements and adding advanced features at the same time. The module runs on a dual-core, 32-bit processor with Qualcomm's Kalimba DSP Audio subsystem. It supports high-fidelity music and call playback with aptX, aptX HD, Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo (for fully wireless earbuds), and enhanced active noise cancellation. Moreover, it bakes in support for voice assistant services from Amazon (Alexa), Google (Assistant), and Microsoft (Cortana) with low-power wake word detection. Other specs include Bluetooth 5.0 and 2 Mbps Bluetooth Low Energy support, embedded memory and storage for music, integrated amplifier, and developer tools for hardware makers to put to work in their designs. Qualcomm claims the SoC is very efficient, reducing power consumption by 65% for voice calls and music streaming. Qualcomm expects designs based on the QCC5100 Series will reach the market during the first half of the year.
Google today took steps to simplify its mobile and online payment products by combining them into a single service called Google Pay. Moving forward, Google Pay will encompass the features of Google Wallet and Android Pay. Google expects people will use Google Pay to make payments online and via mobile devices, and even to pay friends directly. Google says Google Pay is already available in some apps and web sites, including (but not limited to) Airbnb, Dice, Fandango, HungryHouse, and Instacart. Google expects Google Pay to become more widely available quickly, as developers don't have to do too much to alter their existing Google Wallet- and Android Pay-backed services for full Google Pay integration. Google didn't say if or when a new Google Pay mobile app will reach Android handsets.
The Internet Association plans to fight the FCC's attempt to repeal net neutrality. The FCC this week published the final version of its Report & Order to sack the Obama-era laws that govern the internet. The FCC seeks to reclassify broadband internet under Title I of the Communications Act as a private service, rather than as a utility under Title II. The FCC also plans to ditch the bright-line rules that prohibit throttling, blocking, and prioritization. In response, the Internet Association said, "The final version of Chairman Pai’s rule, as expected, dismantles popular net neutrality protections for consumers. This rule defies the will of a bipartisan majority of Americans and fails to preserve a free and open internet. IA intends to act as an intervenor in judicial action against this order and, along with our member companies, will continue our push to restore strong, enforceable net neutrality protections through a legislative solution." Members of IA include internet giants Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix, Spotify, eBay, Twitter, Pandora, PayPal, and others.
OnePlus today announced a new color for the OnePlus 5T: sandstone white. The new shade will be available for order starting January 9. It will only be sold in the 8 GB of RAM / 128 GB of storage configuration at a cost of $559. The phone has the same Snapdragon 835 processor, dual-camera array, and 2:1 screen of the black model. In other OnePlus news, the company recently introduced a new app called Switch that's meant to help people transfer content from one phone to another. Switch can migrate contacts, messages, call logs, photos, videos, audio, and apps. OnePlus hopes to add support for WiFi history, camera settings, app data, and more down the road. Switch is free to download from the Google Play Store.
LG today showed off a new smart speaker that will be available in early 2018. LG is calling the ThinQ Speaker its "first premium smart AI audio product" thanks to the addition of the Google Assistant. With Assistant on board, the Thinq Speaker will behave a lot like the Google Home product by performing voice-based searches. In addition to playing music, the ThinQ Speaker can interact with LG's other smart home appliances, such as television sets, air purifiers, and refrigerators. LG says the speaker includes Meridian Audio technology to ensure support for high-quality, lossless file playback for the best possible sound. LG will share more information about the ThinQ Speaker during its CES press conference scheduled for January 8. Google is encouraging its hardware partners to put Google Assistant, which first launched on mobile devices, in a variety of products. Amazon has done the same with its Alexa artificial intelligence.
Verizon Wireless today began rolling out the Android 8 Oreo system update to the Motorola Moto Z2 Force. In addition to the core Oreo features, including notification dots and picture-in-picture, the update makes improvements to productivity, performance, and notifications. For example, apps should now run quicker and smoother. The update also include Google's new rounded emoji characters and a new calling screen in the phone app. The update can be downloaded and installed over the air.
Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt this week said he plans to step down from his leadership role on the company's board and will instead serve as a technical advisor to the company. "Larry, Sergey, Sundar and I all believe that the time is right in Alphabet’s evolution for this transition. The Alphabet structure is working well, and Google and the Other Bets are thriving," said Schmidt. "In recent years, I’ve been spending a lot of my time on science and technology issues, and philanthropy, and I plan to expand that work." Alphabet is the umbrella organization that serves as parent to Google and other divisions. Google founders Larry Page, now CEO of Alphabet, and Sergei Brin will remain in their respective roles, as will Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google. The change will go into effect in January 2018. Google didn't say who might replace Schmidt. He served as Google's CEO from 2001 to 2011.
Google today updated the Google Assistant SDK for developers and in so doing expanded the number of things developers can do with the voice-based assistant. To start, Assistant is now available in more languages and locales, including English (Australia, Canada, U.K., U.S.), French (Canada, France), German, and Japanese. The refreshed SDK makes it possible for end users to further tweak their Assistant-powered (non-mobile) devices, such as manually configure street address or set location via longitude/latitude. Google says this will improve results for location-based queries, such as "Ok Google, where's the nearest coffee shop?" Other new powers in the expanded SDK include support for text-based queries and responses, and more control over device-based actions for smarthome hardware. Developers can download and begin using the updated Google Assistant SDK from the Google Developer web site. It will be up to developers and device makers to build these functionalities into their apps and products.
Google will force developers to adhere to new guidelines beginning next year in an effort to improve the security of apps and the Android devices on which those apps run. To start, Google will require new apps to target API level 26 (Android 8) by August 2018. API level 26 introduced a wide range of new tools that boost security and end-user privacy. Existing apps will need to target API level 26 by November 2018. Beginning in 2019, all apps will need to target the corresponding API for the current Android dessert release. Another change on deck for 2019: all apps will need to support 64-bit code. Google introduced 64-bit cpmputing in Android 5 and says more than 40% of all Android devices already rely on 64-bit (though they also still support 32-bit). According to Google, all apps will need to adopt 64-bit, either in the same APK or in one of multiple APKs for their Play Store app. This is meant to boost app performance more so than security. (Apple discontinued all support for 32-bit apps when it released iOS 11 earlier this year.) Last, Google says it will begin to add security metadata on top of each APK for verification purposes. Google refers to this as "a Play badge of authenticity" for Android apps. This will not require developers or users to take any overt action. Google said more security updates are in the works. Developers can learn more about these changes via the Android Developer Blog.
Google today said it has decided to wind down Project Tango, its ambitious augmented reality platform that used on-device cameras and sensors to blend reality with computer-generated content. "As we focus on bringing augmented reality to the entire Android ecosystem with ARCore, we’re turning down support of Tango," said Google. The company will officially cease to support Project Tango on March 1, 2018. The company worked with several hardware partners to create Project Tango handsets, which were laden with special equipment to make the platform work. The most recent such device was the Asus ZenFone AR, sold by Verizon Wireless. Moving forward, Google will push its ARCore platform as a means for generating and consuming augmented reality content on Android handsets. To that end, Google today released ARCore Developer Preview 2, an update to its augmented reality toolset for app writers. "We've taken everything we learned from [Project Tango] to build ARCore. Whereas Tango required special hardware, ARCore is a fast, performant, Android-scale SDK that enables high-quality augmented reality across millions of qualified mobile devices." The updated ARCore Developer Preview includes a new C API for use with the Android NDK. Google says this dovetails nicely with its existing Java, Unity, and Unreal SDKs. Another addition is the ability for AR apps to pause and resume without losing their spot in order to allow people to perform actions such as answering calls. Last, the new developer preview improves accuracy and runtime efficiency. Developers interested in the new ARCore Developer Preview can find it through Google's developer web site. Google says it expects ARCore-based apps will reach the Play Store before too long.
Google has updated Maps for Android with a new feature meant to ensure people don't miss their stop when using public transportation, such as buses or trains. Google says the new tool supplies not only departure times and ETAs, but it can also alert people when it is time to get off a bus or train in order to make a transfer or arrive at their destination. The new transit functionality lets people track their progress in real time, just as when driving or walking. Google says in order to use the feature people will need to set destinations and navigate via the public transportation tab in Maps. Google Maps is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today updated several of its travel tools in ways that should help people find the best, least-expensive options when traveling. Google Flights, for example, now includes tips under search results, such as when prices are abnormally low or high. Google Flights can also let you know that prices are unlikely to change, so it is safe to book most any time. These tools are powered by machine learning, and can alert people who opt to track flight prices via email. Google added similar tools to its hotel search function, which will tell people when room rates are higher than usual, or if the area is busier than normal due to some local event. The hotel price tracking feature also gains the ability to send email alerts when prices change. The Google Trips app adds a handful of new functions. For example, Trips' new Discounts feature tells people when it is best to book tickets for attractions and other activities, such as visiting Alcatraz during a trip to San Francisco. This is specifically meant to help save money. Moreover, a "trending destinations" tool lets people know where other people want to go on vacation for specific time periods and/or holiday weekends. This may help people avoid over-crowded destinations. Google Flights and Google Trips are free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today said older Android smartphones and tablets are gaining access to the Google Assistant. Until today, Assistant was only available to phones running Android 6 Marshmallow and up. Now, handsets that have Android 5.0 Lollipop support Assistant. Google says Assistant has started to roll out to all devices running Lollipop in English in the U.S., U.K., India, Australia, Canada, and Singapore, as well as in Spanish in the U.S., Mexico, and Spain. Further, for the first time Google Assistant is being made available to Android tablets. Android slates in the U.S. running Android 6 Marshmallow and Android 7 Nougat will be able to download Assistant over the coming weeks. Google Assistant is Google's voice-powered personal helper. It can be used to perform searches as well as initiate actions on mobile devices.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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 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 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 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.
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 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 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 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 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 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.
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 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 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 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 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.