Android 7.1: Pixel-Only, For Now

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Pixel phones will ship with a new Android version: 7.1. It looks like many of the important Nougat features have been left out from the 7.0 release.

Android 7.1′s unofficial changelog published by Android Police has many Pixel-specific features, including a new launcher, a new camera app, Google Assistant, a support tab in the settings, solid navbar icons, Smart Storage that removes old backed up photos and videos when storage is full.

There are also some features that aren’t restricted to Pixel devices: night light (filters blue light), fingerprint swipe down gesture, seamless A/B system updates, Daydream VR mode, support for app shortcuts and circular app icons, keyboard image insertion, manual storage manager and more. Unfortunately, Nexus devices and Pixel C will only get a dev preview by the end of 2016, so the stable release will be available in 2017. So much for buying Nexus devices to be the first to get the latest Android updates.

Google Assistant won’t be a Pixel exclusive for long, since it’s a core Google feature that needs wide adoption. I assume that the launcher and camera app will be also available in the Play Store at some point.

October 7th 2016 Android

Why Google Can’t Sell Expensive Products

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Google announced its first phone and many people wondered why it’s as expensive as an iPhone. Nexus phones were sometimes inexpensive (Nexus 4: $299, Nexus 5: $349, Nexus 5X: $379) and sometimes more expensive (Nexus One: $530, Nexus 6: $649, Nexus 6P: $599). Now the 5-inch Pixel costs $649 in the US, while the 5.5-inch Pixel XL costs $769, which is more than any other Nexus phone.

Obviously, Google’s pricing was more aggressive when it wanted to sell more products and less aggressive when sales numbers mattered less. The truth is that Google only managed to sell products in high volumes if the price was low enough to make them good value. Chromecast was successful because it offered a lot of value for the money. Nexus 5 was a flagship phone at half the price, so millions of people bought it. Nexus 7 was good enough for $199, but Google’s bigger tablets were more expensive and their flaws were more striking.

Google is a “value” brand. Most people associate Google with free ad-supported online services that offer great features. There’s no paid Google software for consumers, as Google only sells digital content and subscription services (storage, music). Google is not a lifestyle or luxury brand, so people don’t expect to pay much for Google products.

There’s a lot of risk associated with Google products, since Google doesn’t stand behind them all the time. Some of them are experiments, others are quickly discontinued and forgotten. I still remember that Google stopped selling Nexus One only 6 months after the launch or when Logitech’s CEO said back in 2011 that Google TV was a huge and costly mistake. Android One was a flop, Google Play Edition failed, Motorola was acquired by Google and later sold to Lenovo.

Google’s commitment issues, its high appetite for releasing beta products, its lack of planning and foresight – all of these problems alienate consumers and make them think twice before buying a Google product. Premium brands are all about image, trust, credibility, heritage.

October 7th 2016 Android

Pixel’s best features aren’t coming to the new version of Android

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pixel7 At Google’s hardware event this week, the new version of the Android operating system, Android 7.1 (Nougat 7.1), was barely mentioned. As it turns out, there was a reason for that: some of the new Pixel smartphones‘ best features won’t be arriving in the new OS. This includes features like Google Assistant, the built-in customer support service, unlimited and free backup… Read More

October 6th 2016 Android, Mobile

No More Nexus Devices

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After the launch of Google’s Pixel phones, many people wondered if the Nexus brand will be retired or we’ll still see Nexus phones, tablets and other Android devices. It looks like the first answer is accurate. According to The Verge, Google says that there are no plans for future Nexus products.

“The idea was to show everyone how it should be done,” says Brian Rakowski, VP of product management for Android. “All the partners in the phone manufacturing space took it and built great products on top of it. Meanwhile, Nexus kind of trundled along at the same small scale.”

Nexus was the reference Android phone and was mostly for developers and early adopters. Google sent mixed messages: some of the phones were heavily subsidized, others were more expensive, design and features were rarely consistent from one generation to another.

With Android’s beta program and Google’s efforts to give manufacturers early access to the Android code, Nexus devices became less important. There are also inexpensive “flagship killers” like the OnePlus 3, which only costs $399.

Google got serious about hardware and started to build an ecosystem of devices that work together: phones, tablets, laptops, routers, VR headsets, smart speakers, smart gadgets for your TV. Some of them are great, others will get better or be replaced by products that better fit inside the ecosystem. Google finally realized that “people who are really serious about software should make their own hardware,” as Alan Kay said and Steve Jobs quoted.

Challenging Apple when it comes to selling premium hardware is quite difficult. Apple consistently delivers great products, while Google’s products are hit and miss (examples of bad apples: Nexus Q, Pixel C, Glass, Nexus 9). Apple has a long-term vision for products, while Google’s plans are always changing with many casualties along the way.

“It’s very challenging to work on dozens of products and make them all terrific. We have to have a lot of discipline and a lot of focus,” says Rick Osterloh, Google’s head of hardware and Motorola’s former president.

For now, Google admits that Pixel phones “aren’t going to have enormous volumes”, as this is only the first iteration of the product. The good news is that “touch latency [on the Pixel] is the best of any Android device ever produced. If you put it under high-speed camera, it’s on par with an iPhone.”

Google has big plans when it comes to hardware and hopes to eventually sell a lot of them. Even if that means competing against its own partners. “We’re no longer going to be shy about what we think is the right answer for us. What we are going to do is give the OEM ecosystem a chance to compete, meaning it’s a fair playing field,” says Rishi Chandra, VP of product management for home products.

{ via The Verge }

October 6th 2016 Android

Google Gets Serious About Hardware

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Google has a new hardware division and Rick Osterloh, the former Motorola chief, is in charge. This hardware division merges Google’s disparate hardware projects to bring more cohesive products that work well together.

Google announced a lot of products today and all of them are made by Google. Nexus phones have been replaced by Pixel phones, Daydream View is a comfortable VR headset that works with Pixel phones, Google Home brings Google Assistant to a smart speaker, Google WiFi is a new router that promises better range and Chromecast Ultra supports 4K and has an Ethernet port. That’s quite a lot.

Pixel phones are actually made by HTC, but there’s no HTC branding. Pixel and Pixel XL are designed by Google and HTC is only the OEM. The two phones share the same premium hardware (aluminum/glass unibody, Snapdragon 821, 4GB RAM, 32/128GB of storage, AMOLED screens, 12MP camera with gyroscope-based electronic image stabilization), but have different screen sizes (5 inch vs 5.5 inch), resolutions (1920 x 1080 vs 2560 x 1440) and batteries (2770 mAh vs 3450 mAh). They have an impressive camera that scores 89 in the DxOMark Mobile test, which is the highest score for a mobile phone. The camera has a fast f/2.0 lens, hybrid autofocus powered by laser detection and phase detection, zero lag HDR+, powerful stabilization.

Pixel and Pixel XL ship with Android Nougat and they’re the first phones that come with Google Assistant, the upgraded voice assistant with a more natural voice, more comprehensive answers and better integration with other services.

“Pixel is available for pre-order today starting at $649 in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Germany and Australia,” mentions Google. Pixel XL costs $120 more, while the 128GB options adds $100 to the price, exactly like the iPhone. Google partnered with a few carriers: Verizon, Roger/Telus/Bell in Canada, EE in the UK, Deutsche Telekom in Germany, Telstra in Australia, as well as a few stores like Best Buy and Flipkart.

Daydream View brings virtual reality to everyone (who has a Daydream compatible phone). “Powered by Android 7.0 Nougat, Daydream-ready phones are built with high-resolution displays, powerful mobile processors and high-fidelity sensors—all tuned to support great VR experiences. Google’s newest Pixel and Pixel XL are the first Daydream-ready phones, and there are a lot more on the way from leading Android smartphone makers,” informs Google. Daydream View is a VR headset and controller that costs $79 and it’s comfortable and easy to use. For now, it’s mainly a Google Pixel accessory and it will be available in November in the US, Canada, Germany, UK and Australia from the Google Store and all the other carriers and stores that sell Google’s phones.

Google Home is a smart wireless speaker with integrated Google Assistant, powerful microphones and noise cancelling technology. It’s always listening to “OK Google” (you can quickly disable this feature from the mute button), it has touch controls, far-field voice recognition, Hi-Fi speakers, multi-room support if you buy multiple devices. It also has customizable bases you can buy from the Google Store. Google Home is a clever voice interface for Google, but also for your other smart devices like Chromecast, Nest, Philips Hue and more. IFTTT will make Google Home automation even more powerful.

“Google Home will be available in stores starting in November or you can pre-order yours today for $129 from the Google Store, Best Buy, Target and Walmart,” informs Google.

After launching OnHub routers manufactured by TP-Link and Asus, Google came up with its own simplified WiFi router. It’s designed to cover a small house or an apartment and you can use multiple Google routers for a larger house. “Network Assist is intelligent software built into Google Wifi to provide you with the fastest possible speed. Behind the scenes, Network Assist automatically helps you avoid Wi-Fi congestion, and transitions you to the closest Wi-Fi point for the best signal.” Google’s new router has a mobile app that lets you quickly change settings and check stats. For example, you can pause Wi-Fi on a device or prioritize a device.

“Google Wifi will be available for pre-order in the U.S. in November. It will retail for $129 for a single pack, and $299 for a three-pack at the Google Store, Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart.”

Chromecast Ultra brings 4K and HDR support, a more powerful hardware and a different charger with Ethernet port. “Chromecast Ultra supports 4K, HDR and Dolby Vision, so you’ll get a crisper picture with higher resolution and more vibrant colors. At first, you’ll be able to stream 4K content from Netflix, YouTube and Vudu, and we’re working to bring more 4K and HDR content on board. Later this year, Google Play Movies & TV will be rolling out 4K content. Chromecast Ultra loads videos 1.8 times faster than other Chromecast devices and includes major Wi-Fi improvements to support streams from full HD to Ultra HD without a hitch,” explains Google. “Chromecast Ultra will be available in November for $69 from Best Buy, the Google Store, Target, and Walmart in the U.S., as well as from international retailers in 15 more countries.”

Here’s the full Google announcement, just in case you missed it:

October 5th 2016 Android, Mobile

Google Calendar Events in Google Maps

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The latest version of the Google Maps app for Android adds more integration with Google Calendar. There’s a new upcoming tab in “Your places”, which shows a list of upcoming events, including your bookings and reservations from Gmail. Click an event to quickly see the location on the map.

There’s also a new “personal content” section in the settings, which lets you disable the integration with Google Contacts, Google Photos, disable location, location history and search history.

October 1st 2016 Android

Google Launches ‘Get Trips’ Mobile App

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Google has created a comprehensive new travel app, Get Trips, available for both Android & iOS mobile devices, that push it further into the travel industry. The new travel app, targeted toward sight seeing consumers, is both a trip planner and coordinator, giving you helpful suggestions on things to see nearby a destination as well as keeping your reservation info in one convenient place.

Just Be Happy

Google pointed out a study that concluded 74% of travellers are most stressed with the logistics of travel. “Most of the happiness gleaned from vacation is dependent upon the stress level of the vacation,” said Shawn Achor, CEO of GoodThink which conducted the study and author of the book Before Happiness. “Poorly planned and stressful vacations eliminate the positive benefit of time away. The less the stress, the more likely you will experience a positive benefit from the time off. A positive, well-managed vacation can make you happier and less stressed, and you can return with more energy at work and with more meaning in your life.”

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Personalized Tour Guide in Your Pocket

“Knowing what to do when your holiday starts can turn what’s supposed to be fun into a lot of work,” said Stefan Frank, Product Manager for Google Trips in a blog post. “You might get recommendations from friends, travel guides, or online reviews — but figuring out how to squeeze everything you want to do into a finite window of time can be stressful, especially when you’re in a new place, often with limited access to the web.”

Google Trips according to Google is a “personalized tour guide in your pocket” with each trip organized by day plans, reservations, things to do, food and drink, and much more. Google says that all of the apps features work offline too, which is incredibly helpful to those traveling without the benefit of expensive phone connections and inconsistent wifi. You can create the trip entirely in advance and simply download it to your phone.

Planning a Day is Easy

Google Trips includes day plans for the top 200 cities in the world and features the most popular itineraries, automatically generated from data Google has gathered from other travellers. It may sound creepy, but Google knows where just about everybody is at all times and keep a record of it, just in case it decides to build an app like this one. Don’t forget, you agreed to it when you added any Google app to your mobile device.

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“Say your friends told you that you have to see the Sagrada Familia — and you’re looking for suggestions on things to do around that spot,” says the Google Travel team. “Press the “+” button in the day plans tile to jump into a map view containing all the top attractions in your destination. If you’re time constrained, you can specify above the map whether you have just the morning or afternoon, versus a full day. Then simply tap and pin the Sagrada Familia to build your itinerary around it. Google Trips automatically fills in the day for you.”

It Keeps Your Info Too

Google Trips ensures that you don’t have to scramble or have an internet connection when you have to find your reservations for planes, trains, automobile or hotels. This eliminates the panic we know that many of you feel when you just can’t connect, the data is hard coded into your phone!

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The post Google Launches ‘Get Trips’ Mobile App appeared first on WebProNews.

September 22nd 2016 Android, Google, Mobile, Technology

Georgia Prison CIO Gives Google Cloud Credit for Saving Millions

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Georgia’s Department of Community Supervision has gone virtual via Google Apps and Chromebooks. With staff increases and with significant amounts of time outside of their offices, The State of Georgia was looking for a more economical and cost-efficient solution to getting things done in their offender supervision programs. They made the decision to go 100 percent virtual office and 100 percent Google.

“We decided to try something that had never been done in Georgia state government history: eliminate the majority of our offices entirely and allow hundreds of our 2,100 staff members to work remotely instead,” said Phil Sellers, Director, Information Technology Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, writing in the Google for Work Blog. “Our existing desktop computers and office applications didn’t have the features to support remote workers, so we started looking into alternatives. I was familiar with Google’s cost-cutting, collaborative and mobile-friendly features, so my team led the switch to Google Apps for Work and Google Chromebooks.”

He says that they have saved literally millions of dollars by not paying for expensive hardware and enterprise licensing contracts, not to mention the increased productivity of employees who can now work anywhere, anytime. “We no longer have dedicated IT services for routine storage and email support, and our small IT staff of 35 doesn’t need to roll out patches and antivirus software. If an officer closes her Chromebook or loses power, she doesn’t have to worry about trying to recover lost data. If we need to replace a device, it’s inexpensive and fast to get someone back up and running.”

Many government agencies and large corporations have been leery of cloud solutions because of possible security breaches, which could include crucial data exposures. Georgia’s Department of Community Supervision believes the opposite is true. “Officers used to store their data on laptops, so if their device was lost or stolen, they’d lose sensitive information about parolees and probationers,” said Sellers. “With Chromebooks, we store everything in the cloud and can easily wipe and replace a device if needed. Officers use a 2-step authentication to enter our systems, which adds another layer of security.”

The agency is often field-based away from the office, so using Chromebooks and Android phones lets their officers work wherever they are and collaborate with colleagues via Google Docs, Google Drive and Google Hangouts. “Since we’ve adopted the policy, officers are more productive, and sick leave and employee turnover have decreased,” added Sellers.

Google is pushing the concept of Chromebooks, Google Drive Apps and Android as one enterprise level platform for businesses to operate. They are competing with established players such as Microsoft, Salesforce and to some extent Amazon. They are working to distinguish the Google approach by tying in their Android OS and phones, Chromebook tablet, the Google Cloud Platform and their many office related apps and chat tools so that businesses have a much less expensive alternative than the competitors.

Google recently touted how its platform is the most secure. “We’re talking about stuff that you’ve seen in “Mission Impossible”– biometrics, lasers, vehicle barriers, bollards. All of this is custom-built, also, to make the data center more secure,” said Neal Mueller, Security and Networking lead for Google Cloud.

The post Georgia Prison CIO Gives Google Cloud Credit for Saving Millions appeared first on WebProNews.

September 21st 2016 Android, Google, Mobile, security, Technology

Xiaomi’s Android set-top box to launch as soon as October for less than $100

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Xiaomi Mi Box There’s much anticipation about Chinese smartphone company Xiaomi’s long-awaited entry into the U.S. market. And we don’t have long to wait. Kinda. TechCrunch understands that Xiaomi will begin selling its first mainstream product in the U.S. — an Android set-top box — as soon as next month. Read More

September 7th 2016 Android

Facebook lifts the veil on its mobile device testing lab

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fb_data_center-4 Earlier this week, Facebook gave a small group of reporters a tour of its Prineville, OR data center. In the process, the company also showed off its mobile device lab for testing on physical devices new iOS and Android versions of the Facebook app, Messenger and Instagram. The mobile device lab currently occupies 60 racks in the data center. Each rack holds 32 phones, for a total of… Read More

July 14th 2016 Android, Facebook