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printed October 20, 2017
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Created by Google, Android is a smartphone OS and platform that is open-source and open for any manufacturer to use to make a smartphone. Most Android phones use a version that is mostly provided by Google and requires Google services. Android phones can run Android apps, available from the Google Play Store, or, optionally, from other sources.

by:  Google


ZTE Blade X Is the Latest Low-Cost Option from Cricket Wireless

Today, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE and Cricket Wireless today announced the Blade X, an affordable Android smartphone with a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. The Blade X sports a 5.5-inch 720 HD screen with 2.5D Dragontail glass. The phone is powered by a 1.4 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 425 with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. It supports high-capacity microSD memory cards. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with LED flash and features such as manual, panorama, and time-lapse. The front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with digital zoom. ZTE gave the Blade X a large 3,000mAh battery with support for Quick Charge 1.0 for quicker powerups. Other features include mobile hotspot, HD Voice, Dolby Audio, FM Radio, USB-C, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The Blade X runs Android 7.1 Nougat. It is available online and in stores today for $120.


Google Improves Visibility of Instant Apps with 'Try It Now' Button

Yesterday, 12:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today outlined a number of improvements it has made to the Play Store in order to help both consumers and developers make the most of Android apps and games. The most significant user-facing change is the addition of a "Try It Now" button that accompanies Instant Apps in the Play Store. This allows people to jump right into the app for sampling purposes without downloading or installing the full application. The idea is to give people a taste of what the app or game delivers without requiring them to download or pay for it right away. Google believes this will boost download numbers for developers. The Play Store now includes trailers for games and expanded screenshots depicting gameplay, as well as previews for upcoming releases. The curated Editors' Choice section is now live in 17 countries, providing the best apps and games with even more visibility on end-user devices. Google has made changes to the way it handles subscriptions, though these changes mostly benefit developers. For example, developers can now offer shorter free trials (minimum of three days), as well as enforce one free trial to reduce the potential for abuse. Moreover, beginning in January the subscription fee expense for developers will drop from 30% to 15% for customers who stick around for more than 12 months for any given subscription.


Samsung Embraces Google's ARCore for Augmented Reality

Wednesday, 3:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said it will work with Google to bring Google's ARCore augmented reality content to a wider range of its smartphones, including the Galaxy S8, S8+, and Note8. Using the ARCore SDK, developers will be able to create augmented reality experiences for millions of Galaxy handsets. Google announced ARCore in August. The effort will see less-demanding hardware requirements for running AR apps on Android devices, expanding AR's reach to some 100 million phones. In addition to its stance on AR, Samsung also provided an update on its efforts in the virtual reality space. For example, it continues to iterate on its Gear VR headset for Galaxy smartphones and recently introduced the Samsung Internet VR, a browser optimized for the Gear VR. Another app called Samsung PhoneCast VR lets people translate 2D apps into 3D AR through mirroring for improved gameplay. Samsung offers developers the Samsung Gear VR Framework, an open-source VR rendering engine with a Java interface. The Java UI gives developers a familiar environment in which to create without forcing them to learn new SDKs. Samsung says it will continue to work with partners such as Google and Facebook/Oculus to push mobile-based AR and VR forward.


Google Pixel Phones Have Hidden Image Processor

Tuesday, 12:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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


Hands On with the ZTE Axon M

Tuesday, 9:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 9:05 AM

ZTE is trying something different with the Axon M. Rather than push out another boring slab, ZTE created an interesting Android smartphone with twin folding displays that can be set in a number of different and useful configurations. Need extra screen real estate in that document, or want to run two full-screen apps side by side? The Axon M does that and more. Here are Phone Scoop's first impressions of this AT&T-exclusive handset.

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ZTE's Axon M Boasts Dual, Folding Displays to Create Tablet-Sized Screen

Tuesday, 9:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 9:45 AM

ZTE today announced the Axon M, a unique Android smartphone that has two full-sized displays that can unfold to create one larger screen for multitasking and viewing video. ZTE calls the Axon M a flagship handset, and it includes solid specs under the foldable aluminum chassis. Both screens measure 5.2 inches across the diagonal with full HD resolution. When fully opened, the combined screen real estate stretches 6.9 inches across the diagonal with 1,920 by 2,160 resolution. The displays are each covered by 2.5D Gorilla Glass 5. The Axon M includes three viewing modes suited to different tasks, such as running two apps at the same time, expanding the size of any given app, or sharing video with another person. ZTE says a decent number of apps will support the new viewing modes at launch, but it is releasing a series of tools to developers so they may adjust their apps to the Axom M form factor. The phone is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor with 4 GB of memory and 64 GB of storage. The phone supports memory cards up to 256 GB. The Axon M has a single 20-megapixel sensor that doubles as the main and selfie cameras. Imaging features include an aperture of f/1.8, phase-detection autofocus, image stabilization for photos/videos, as well as dual LED flash. The M carries over the Axon line's high-quality audio thanks to Dolby Atmos, the AKM 4962 audio chipset, and powerful stereo speakers. Other hardware features include Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi, LTE, rapid charging, and USB-C. The device runs Android 7. 1 Nougat, but ZTE said an update to Oreo isn't too far off. The Axon M will be an AT&T exclusive in the U.S. ZTE said it expects the phone will reach stores in time for the holiday shopping season. AT&T said it will charge $24 per month for 30 months for the phone, or about $725.

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Hands On with the Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro

Monday, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 9:39 PM

Huawei is taking aim at Apple, Samsung, and LG with its latest flagship handsets, the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro. These high-quality devices feature stunning hardware, top specs, and table-stakes features such as fingerprint readers. Huawei is banking on its NPU-based artificial intelligence to take the phones' dual camera systems to the next level. The Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro run Android 8 Oreo with EMUI 8 from Huawei to take advantage of the powerful Kirin processor. Here are Phone Scoop's first impressions of Hauwei's new smartphones.

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Huawei Hopes AI-Assisted Camera Will Set Mate 10, Mate 10 Pro Apart

Monday, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Huawei today announced the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro, the Chinese company's flagship smartphones heading into the end of the year. The Mate 10 (left) and Mate 10 Pro (right) are high-end devices with curved glass panels front and back, and a metal frame in between. Huawei created a distinct reflective band that runs across the rear of the phones to call out the cameras. The phones share nearly all features and primarily differ with respect to screen aspect ratio and resolution. Where the Mate 10 has a quad HD 5.9-inch LCD panel with a 16:9 aspect ratio, the Mate 10 Pro has an HD+ 6-inch OLED panel with an 18:9 aspect ratio. The Mate 10's fingerprint reader is located on the front and the phone supports microSD memory cards, where the Mate 10 Pro's fingerprint reader is on the back and the phone doesn't support memory cards. The phones rely on Huawei's new Kirin 970 processor, its homegrown 8-core CPU, which includes a 12-core GPU and dedicated neural network processing unit, or NPU. The NPU is primarily put to use with the camera, where it is able to recognize objects and adjust the camera's parameters accordingly. At launch, the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro will, for example, be able to recognize the difference between flowers and plants, or cats and dogs in order to more accurately capture photos. The phones feature a dual-camera system on the back with a 12-megapixel RGB sensor and a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor, both at f/1.6. Some of the tools include scene recognition, bokeh, optical image stabilization, and AI-assisted focusing and zooming. The front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor at f/2.0. The phone will launch with Android 8 Oreo and EMUI 8, a new version of Huawei's Android skin. EMUI 8 was built to take advantage of the Kirin 970 and supports advanced split screen multitasking and a full desktop computing experience sans dock. The Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro also include 4,000mAh batteries with rapid and wireless charging, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, high-definition audio, USB-C, and high-speed LTE. The Mate 10 is available only with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage, while the Mate 10 Pro is available in either a 4 GB / 64 GB or 6 GB / 128 GB configuration. Pricing and availability was not disclosed.


Researchers Say WiFi Vulnerability Impacts Nearly Everything

Monday, 7:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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


OnePlus Allowing 3 and 3T Owners to Test Oreo Beta

Monday, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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


Phone-Based Google Assistant Can Now Manage Chromecasts

Oct 14, 2017, 11:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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


Sprint's 'Safe & Found' Service Lets Parents Keep Tabs On Kids

Oct 13, 2017, 11:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today debuted a new resource for parents called Safe & Found. It allows parents to view their child's smartphone location any time, as well as set controls over apps and usage. The service includes real-time geolocation and geofencing, which allows parents to create safe zones in which their children are permitted to travel. If the child's phone departs the geofenced area, parents will receive alerts. The service includes an SOS button, which will send an emergency alert with the child's location to all family members. Alternately, if the phone is lost Safe & Found lets subscribers find, lock, or wipe it remotely. Parental controls give mom and dad the ability to restrict calls to trusted numbers, install age-appropriate apps, and regulate usage based on the time of day. The service includes content restrictions, too, so inappropriate web content and apps are blocked from kid phones. Safe & Found costs $6.99 per line per month and it is compatible with Android and iOS devices.


Facebook Rings Up Food Order and Delivery Feature

Oct 13, 2017, 9:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today made it possible for Android, iOS, and web users to order food for takeout or delivery without leaving the app. The social network has partnered with a number of food delivery services, including Delivery.com, DoorDash, ChowNow, EatStreet, Slice, and Olo, as well as a handful of restaurants, including Papa John’s, Wingstop, Panera, Jack in the Box, TGI Friday’s, Denny’s, Chipotle, and Five Guys. A new "Order Food" option appears under the Explore menu. Facebook users will be able to search for food by cuisine or location, read reviews from friends, and order directly from within Facebook. People can select the delivery service that works for them, or sign up for a delivery service if they've never used one before. Facebook says the new service is available everywhere in the U.S.


Google Assistant On Phones to Gain Voice-Based Shopping

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

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


Google Opinion Rewards Hits iOS

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

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


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

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

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


Google Merging Video Call Tool Into Phone Dialer

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

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


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

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

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


Google's Project Fi Pushes Back Moto X4 Deliveries

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

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


Wells Fargo Brings NFC Access to 5,000 ATMs

Oct 10, 2017, 11:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Wells Fargo today made good on its promise to allow customers to access their accounts at ATMs via tap-and-go NFC transactions. The company says 40% of its 13,000 ATMs, or about 5,000, now support NFC-based interactions. Wells Fargo plans to update its remaining 8,000 ATMs with NFC by 2019. Customers tap their phone to the NFC sticker on the ATM to initiate the transition, which will also require their banking card PIN. The company says it supports most mobile wallet features from Wells Fargo Wallet for Android, Apple Pay, Android Pay, or Samsung Pay. The ATMs will continue to support traditional bank cards. Earlier this year, Wells Fargo rolled out mobile access at its ATMs through its own mobile app, which generated an 8-digit PIN. This PIN-based mobile service is still available at ATMs that don't yet support NFC.


ZTE Blade Force for Boost Mobile Boasts HPUE

Oct 10, 2017, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today announced the Blade Force smartphone for Boost Mobile. This Android handset includes support for Sprint's High Performance User Equipment technology and two-channel carrier aggregation for better performance near the cell edge. The Blade Force has a 5.5-inch 720p HD display and it is powered by a 1.4 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 427 processor with 2 GB of memory and 16 GB of storage. The phone supports external storage cards up to 128 GB. The rear camera has an 8-megapixel sensor while the front camera has a 5-megapixel camera. Other features include a 3,000mAh battery, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and FM radio. The phone runs Android 7.1 Nougat and is available online starting today for $130.


Microsoft Brings Cortana Assistant to Skype for Android and iOS

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

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


BlackBerry Motion Eschews the Keyboard, Packs Huge Battery

Oct 9, 2017, 1:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

TCL today announced the BlackBerry Motion, a follow-up to the KEYone that drops the keyboard in favor of a larger touch screen. The Motion boasts a 5.5-inch full HD screen that's covered in a nano-diamond coating to prevent scratches. TCL says the phone is the first BlackBerry to carry an IP67 rating for protection from dust and water. The Motion ships with the largest-ever battery for a BlackBerry. The power cell rates 4,000mAh and TCL says it is good for two full days of use. It supports Quick Charge 3.0 for rapid recharges when needed. Other notable hardware features include a programmable convenience key, fingerprint sensor, USB-C, and a standard headphone jack. Under the hood, the BlackBerry Motion is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, with support for microSD memory cards. The rear camera has a 12-megapixel sensor with an f/2.0 lens, flash, and phase-detection autofocus, while the front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor with an f/2.4 lens, flash, and wide-angle field of view. The Motion runs Android 7.1 Nougat with BlackBerry's hardened DTEK software, BlackBerry Hub, and other business-friendly apps on board. A new tool called Locker allows Motion owners to protect photos and other files in a locked folder that can only be opened with a password or fingerprint. The BlackBerry Motion is initially going to be sold in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for about $460. TCL said the phone will eventually be sold in other regions, though it didn't specifically say if that includes the U.S.


Microsoft Exec Says Windows Mobile Is Basically Done

Oct 9, 2017, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft executive Joe Belfiore on Sunday explained in a series of Tweets that the company is no longer creating new software or hardware for its Windows Mobile platform. Belfiore was responding directly to questions posed by fans when he said, "Many companies still deploy [Windows Phone] to their employees and we will support them! Of course we'll continue to support the platform ... bug fixes, security updates, etc. But building new features/[hardware] aren't the focus," Belfiore admitted that he, like Microsoft founder and former CEO Bill Gates, has switched to Android. "As an individual end-user, I switched platforms for the app/hw diversity." The questions put to Belfiore arose due to Microsoft's recent move to expand its Edge browser to to iOS. The browser is in beta mode via the App Store. Microsoft has focused much of its mobile app efforts on the Android and iOS platforms in recent years with its Office productivity suite, Skype communications tool, Android Launcher, OneDrive, and more. In the end, apps became the problem for Windows 10. "We have tried very hard to incent app [developers]. Paid money ... wrote apps for them ... but volume of users is too low for most companies to invest," wrote Belfiore. With no real selection of apps, Windows Mobile didn't have much of a chance against the Android and iOS platforms, which each offers more than one billion apps available to end users.


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

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

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


ZTE Blade Vantage Costs Just $50 from Verizon

Oct 5, 2017, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE and Verizon Wireless today announced the Blade Vantage, an inexpensive entry-level device for Verizon's pre-paid service. The Vantage includes a 5-inch screen with 854 by 480 pixels and it is powered by a 1.1 GHz, quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The screen is protected by 2.5D glass that's curved along the edges and fitted into the plastic chassis. On the rear you'll find an 8-megapixel main camera with an f/2.0 lens and flash, while the front carries a 2-megapixel selfie camera with f/2.4 lens. Other hardware features include a 2,500mAh battery, support for microSD memory cards, Bluetooth, WiFi, and LTE with mobile hotspot. It ships with Android 7.1 Nougat. Verizon Wireless is selling the ZTE Blade Vantage for $50.

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Google Refocuses Daydream View Headset

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


Google Allo Expands Presence On the Web

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

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


Google Brushes Up Contacts App for Android

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

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


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

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

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


Google Drops Android Wear Beta for LG Watch Sport

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

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


Android October Security Patch Here for Nexus/Pixel Phones

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

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


Google Makes Family Link More Widely Available

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

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


LG X Venture Lands at U.S. Cellular

Sep 25, 2017, 1:02 PM   by Rich Brome

LG's X Venture was originally exclusive to AT&T, but is now available from U.S. Cellular as well. The mid-range Android phone has a large 4,100 mAh battery and a rugged design.


Google Intros 'Zero-Touch' Android Enterprise Deployments

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

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


Instagram Adds Face Filters to Live Video

Sep 21, 2017, 12:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today made it possible for those broadcasting live video to play with face filters in real time. Broadcasters need only tap the face icon in the bottom right corner before or during their live stream to add filters. Instagram says users can play around with as many filters during their broadcast as they like. Live broadcasts can be shared to stories for replaying or discarded. The feature is rolling out worldwide to Instagram mobile for Android and iOS over the next several weeks.


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

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

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


Google Brings the Moto X4 with Android One to Project Fi

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

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


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