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Google

Google Has A New Podcast App. It Also Hopes To Diversify Podcasting. (buzzfeed.com) 62

An anonymous reader shares a report: Google now has its own podcast app called, well, Google Podcasts, and if you have an Android phone, you can head over to the Play Store and get it right now. Google Podcasts does most things you would expect a podcast app to do. It lets you subscribe to and download podcasts; it learns from your listening history and suggests new ones you might like; and, if you're a podfaster, it lets you speed shows up. Most of these have been things you can already do right from within the Google app on your Android phone -- but now you get a shiny new app to do it with. For Google, the app represents an ambitious goal: to double worldwide podcast listenership. [...] Google is working with an independent global advisory board and industry experts to bring in more creators from underrepresented backgrounds such as women, people of color, and people from other countries into podcasting. Other players in the space such as Spotify and WNYC have already made efforts to spotlight these voices in the podcasting ecosystem. As part of this new program, Google will create curriculums to teach people podcasting basics, develop training programs, and also lower barriers to entry by helping out with equipment like microphones. Details about the program and specific plans to diversify outreach were not yet available. Google says it currently has no plans to release the podcast app to Apple's App Store.
Android

Android Messages Will Now Let You Send Texts From Your Computer (www.blog.google) 95

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Google is beginning to roll out desktop browser support for Android Messages, allowing people to use their PC for sending messages and viewing those that have been received on their Android smartphone. Google says the feature is starting to go out to users today and continuing for the rest of the week. Text, images, and stickers are all supported on the web version.

To get started, the Android Messages website has you scan a QR code using the Android Messages mobile app, which creates a link between the two. In today's blog post, Google also goes over numerous other recent improvements to Android Messenger including built-in GIF search, support for smart replies on more carriers, inline link previews, and easy copy/paste for two-factor authentication messages.

Transportation

Google Maps Removes Uber Integration (arstechnica.com) 37

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Back in January 2017, Google and Uber teamed up to put a cool feature in Google Maps: You could search for, book, and pay for an Uber all directly from Google Maps. You didn't even need the Uber app installed. Now, 18 months later, the feature is dead. Google posted a new support page (first spotted by Android Police) that flatly states, "You can no longer book Uber rides directly in Google Maps."

The feature would have you search for a location in Google Maps and ask for directions like normal, but instead of choosing walking, driving, biking, or mass transit directions, a tab for ride-sharing would allow you to book a ride directly. The ride-sharing tab still exists, but instead of booking an Uber, it just gives you an estimate and offers to kick you out to the Uber app.

The Almighty Buck

Venmo Is Going All In On Mobile Payments (appleinsider.com) 52

Venmo, the PayPal-owned, peer-to-peer payments app, is ending web support for its service. When the changes are all rolled out, users will only be able to make payments and charge users via the iOS or Android app. TechCrunch reports: The message to users was quietly shared in the body of Venmo's monthly transaction history email. It reads as follows: "NOTICE: Venmo has decided to phase out some of the functionality on the Venmo.com website over the coming months. We are beginning to discontinue the ability to pay and charge someone on the Venmo.com website, and over time, you may see less functionality on the website -- this is just the start. We therefore have updated our user agreement to reflect that the use of Venmo on the Venmo.com website may be limited."

The decision represents a notable shift in product direction for Venmo. Though best known as a mobile payments app, the service has also been available online, similar to PayPal, for many years.

Communications

Google Launches Web Client For Android's SMS App (arstechnica.com) 3

Android's default messaging client for 2018 -- "Messages" -- is getting a Web client today. From a report: Google announced the feature launch on the official Google blog, which says "Messages for Web" will roll out to everyone over the next week. Android Messages started as a simple SMS app, but, with the Web client, it is turning into Google's ninth messaging service after (deep breath) Google Talk, Google Voice, Buzz, Google+ Messenger, Hangouts, Spaces, Allo, and the Slack-like Hangouts Chat.
Microsoft

Windows 10 is Adding SwiftKey, Laying the Groundwork For Dual-Screen Tablets (cnet.com) 41

Sean Hollister, writing for CNET: Microsoft-owned SwiftKey was one of the first virtual keyboards to offer intelligent, predictive swipe-typing on Android and iOS phones, and now Microsoft has announced that it will become the default keyboard for touchscreen-equipped Windows 10 computers as well. "SwiftKey will now power the typing experience on Windows when using the touch keyboard to write in English (United States), English (United Kingdom), French (France), German (Germany), Italian (Italy), Spanish (Spain), Portuguese (Brazil), or Russian," reads a portion of Microsoft's blog post. Which could be pretty handy if the rumors are true: Microsoft is reportedly planning to ship several new Surface tablets this year, including a new low-cost Surface slate and the dual-screen "Andromeda." Dual screens were a theme among laptop manufacturers at Computex last week, too.
Hardware

Samsung Unveils Chromebook Plus V2 (betanews.com) 74

Brian Fagioli, writing for BetaNews: Samsung announces its latest such laptop -- the premium, yet affordable, Chromebook Plus (V2). This is a refresh of the first-gen "Plus" model. It can run Android apps and doubles as a convertible tablet, making it very versatile. Best of all, you won't have to wait long to get it -- it will go on sale very soon. "The Samsung Chromebook Plus (V2) puts productivity and entertainment at consumers' fingertips and at the tip of the built-in pen. At 2.91 pounds, its thin design makes it easy to slip into a bag and carry all day -- or use throughout the day with its extended battery life. Flipping its 12.2-inch FHD 1920x1080 resolution screen transforms it from notebook to tablet to sketchbook -- and back -- with two cameras for making it easier to stay connected with friends and sharing with the world. Plus, Chrome OS helps users get more done by providing access to millions of Android apps on Google Play," says Samsung. The Chromebook Plus, powered by Intel Celeron Processor 3965Y and 4GB of RAM, goes on sale later this month at $499.
Privacy

Spanish Soccer League App In Google Play Wants To Use Phone Mics To Enforce Copyrights (arstechnica.com) 77

The official app for the Spanish soccer league La Liga, which has more than 10 million downloads from Google Play, was recently updated to seek access to users' microphone and GPS settings. "When granted, the app processes audio snippets in an attempt to identify public venues that broadcast soccer games without a license," reports Ars Technica. From the report: According to a statement issued by La Liga officials, the functionality was added last Friday and is enabled only after users click "eyes" to an Android dialog asking if the app can access the mic and geolocation of the device. The statement says the audio is used solely to identify establishments that broadcast games without a license and that the app takes special precautions to prevent it from spying on end users. [La Liga's full statement with the "appropriate technical measures to protect the user's privacy" is embedded in Ars' report.]

[E]ven if the app uses a cryptographic hash or some other means to ensure that stored or transmitted audio fragments can't be abused by company insiders or hackers (a major hypothetical), there are reasons users should reject this permission. For one, allowing an app to collect the IP address, unique app ID, binary representation of audio, and the time that the audio was converted could provide a fair amount of information over time about a user. For another, end users frequenting local bars and restaurants shouldn't be put in the position of policing the copyrights of sports leagues, particularly with an app that uses processed audio from their omnipresent phone.

Software

Google Brings Offline Neural Machine Translations For 59 Languages To Its Translate App (techcrunch.com) 46

Google is rolling out offline Neural Machine Translation (NMT) support for 59 languages in the Translate apps. Some of the supported languages include Arabic, Chinese, English, German, Japanese, Spanish, French, and Korean (TechCrunch has a full list of the languages in their report). From the report: In the past, running these deep learning models on a mobile device wasn't really an option since mobile phones didn't have the right hardware to efficiently run them. Now, thanks to both advances in hardware and software, that's less of an issue and Google, Microsoft and others have also found ways to compress these models to a manageable size. In Google's case, that's about 30 to 40 megabytes per language. Users will see the updated offline translations within the next few weeks.
Privacy

Spanish Football League Defends Phone 'Spying' (bbc.com) 86

An anonymous reader shares a report: Spanish football league La Liga has defended the privacy policy of its app after admitting it was accessing the microphone and GPS of Android users. It said it had been trying to track down venues illegally broadcasting matches, by matching audio data and phone location. The app, downloaded more than 10 million times on the Google Play Store, has been criticised by fans. La Liga said it wanted to "protect clubs and their fans from fraud." The broadcasting of football matches in public places without a paid licence cost the game an estimated 150 million euros ($177m) a year, it said. The new function was enabled on Friday, 8 June.
Android

BlackBerry Key2 is the 'Most Secure Android Smartphone', Company Claims (betanews.com) 53

The Key2 smartphone, which BlackBerry unveiled earlier this week, is the "most secure Android smartphone," the Canadian company claims. Brian Fagioli, writing for BetaNews: While BlackBerry no longer makes smartphones, it does license its name to a company called TCL which makes Android devices that carry the branding -- and sometimes, a physical keyboard. It isn't just slapping the BlackBerry name on a random low-quality Android phone, however. Actually, these TCL devices have been fairly well received thanks to an adherence to traditional BlackBerry designs. Today, TCL unveils its latest such smartphone, called "KEY2," and it looks quite nice. In fact, the company says it is "the most secure Android smartphone."
Software

Should Apple Let Competitors Use FaceTime? (cnet.com) 211

In 2010, Steve Jobs first introduced FaceTime and promised it would become an open industry standard that could be used by Apple's competitors -- not just Apple. Well, eight years later and that still hasn't happened. CNET's Sean Hollister provides a theory as to why that is: There's also an ongoing lawsuit to consider -- as Ars Technica documented in 2013, Apple was forced to majorly change how FaceTime works to avoid infringing on the patents of a company called VirnetX. Instead of letting phones communicate directly with each other, Apple added "relay servers" to help the phones connect. Presumably, someone would have to pay for those servers, and/or figure out a way for them to talk to Google or Microsoft or other third-party servers if FaceTime were going to be truly open. But that doesn't make a broken promise less frustrating. Particularly now that Apple could potentially fix annoying business video calls as well. A Skype-killing video chat service that worked on Mac, iOS *and* Windows, Android and the open web? That's something I bet companies would be happy to pay for, too.
Google

Google Facing Billions in EU Antitrust Fines (axios.com) 230

Another EU antitrust fine for Google is coming down the pipe in mid-July over allegations Google has used its Android mobile operating system to beat out rivals, Reuters reports. From a report: The European Commission has been investigating the case since 2015. It's another example of how the EU takes anti-competition violations far more seriously than the U.S. In June of last year, the EU slapped Google with a record $2.8 billion fine for anti-trust practices around its search product, which they said unfairly pushed consumers to use Google's Shopping platform. Sources told Reuters they expect this new fine to top that record.
Google

Google Launches Android P Beta 2 With Final APIs (venturebeat.com) 40

An anonymous reader writes: Google today launched the second Android P beta with final APIs and 157 new emoji. If you're a developer, this is your third Android P preview, and you can start testing your apps against this release by downloading the new preview from developer.android.com/preview. The preview includes an updated SDK with system images for the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, and the official Android Emulator. If you're already enrolled and received the Android P Beta 1 on your Pixel device, you'll automatically get the update to Beta 2.
Android

Google's Lens AI Camera Is Now a Standalone App (androidpolice.com) 18

Google Lens is now available as an app in the Play Store for devices with Android Marshmallow and above. The app is designed to bring up relevant information using visual analysis. Android Police reports: When you open the app, it goes right into a live viewfinder with Lens looking for things it can ID. Like the Assistant version of Lens, you can tap on items to get more information (assuming Google can figure out what they are) and copy text from documents. However, I've noticed that copying text doesn't work on the OnePlus 6 right now. It works fine with the built-in Lens version. Some users are reporting that it's not working properly on some devices, so keep that mind if you decide to give it a whirl.
IOS

Apple Unveils iOS 12 (apple.com) 77

Apple on Monday unveiled iOS 12, the major software update that is coming later this year to all the iPhones and iPad models the company has released since 2013. iOS 12 offers a handful of new features but the focus this year, said company's VP of engineering Craig Federighi onstage, is on performance improvements. Apps will launch up to 40 percent faster, and you can slide to take a photo at up to 70 percent faster than with iOS 11, Federighi said. Part of the major push this year is also on augmented reality. The company is introducing a Measure app, which will people to use their phone's camera to measure real-life objects accurately. There's also 3D graphics that you can place into the real world through AR. Apple made a new file format called USDZ, which was developed in conjunction with Pixar.

Apple is also introducing something called "personalised Memoji characters," ability to have a group FaceTime call, and minor new features and improvements to Siri, and Photos. There is also grouped notifications, a feature that Apple claims to have invented. (Android has had it for more than 8 years.) Additionally, Apple is also bringing new tools to iOS that will allow users to take better control of the time they spend interacting with their iPhones and iPads. Note from the press release: New modes in Do Not Disturb automatically end based on a specified time, location or action and Do Not Disturb during Bedtime helps people get a better night's sleep by dimming the display and hiding all notifications on the lock screen until prompted in the morning. To help reduce interruptions, iOS 12 gives users more options for controlling how notifications are delivered. They can instantly manage notifications to be delivered quietly or turned off completely. Grouped notifications make it easier to view and manage multiple notifications at once. Screen Time provides users with detailed information and tools to help them better understand and control the time they spend with apps and websites. Daily and weekly Activity Reports show the total time spent in individual apps, usage across categories of apps, how many notifications are received and how often iPhone or iPad are picked up.
Cellphones

Smartphone Shipments Declined For the First Time In 2017 (theverge.com) 144

2017 was the first year that smartphone unit shipments didn't grow, according to a new Internet Trends report. "Shipments actually declined by 0.5 percent, as IDC noted in February," reports The Verge. "In 2016, shipments were lukewarm at 2 percent yearly growth, but this downturn is significant." From the report: Among smartphone shipments, Android and iOS have all but completely pushed out every other mobile operating system. And despite the growing price of today's top flagship devices, the average selling price of a smartphone has steadily fallen over the years. As more of the world now owns smartphones, growth has basically stalled. Similarly, internet user growth has only grown 7 percent in 2017, compared to 12 percent in 2016. More people are accessing the internet than ever, on an average of 5.9 hours a day. And they're browsing on mobile, indicating that they're just holding onto older models of phones instead of buying new ones.
Google

Google Quits Selling Tablets (techcrunch.com) 143

Google has quietly crept out of the tablet business, removing the "tablets" heading from its Android page. It was there yesterday, but it's gone today. TechCrunch reports: Google in particular has struggled to make Android a convincing alternative to iOS in the tablet realm, and with this move has clearly indicated its preference for the Chrome OS side of things, where it has inherited the questionable (but lucrative) legacy of netbooks. They've also been working on broadening Android compatibility with that OS. So it shouldn't come as much surprise that the company is bowing out.

Sales have dropped considerably, since few people see any reason to upgrade a device that was originally sold for its simplicity and ease of use, not its specs. Google's exit doesn't mean Android tablets are done for, of course. They'll still get made, primarily by Samsung, Amazon and a couple of others, and there will probably even be some nice ones. But if Google isn't selling them, it probably isn't prioritizing them as far as features and support.
Android Police was first to break the news.
Android

Samsung Won't Be Forced To Update Old Smartphones (bbc.com) 145

Samsung will not be forced to update the software on its mobile phones for years after their release, after it won a court case in the Netherlands. From a report: A consumer association had argued that Samsung should update its phones for at least four years after they go on sale. Regular software updates can address security problems but older models do not typically receive all the latest updates. However, the court rejected the association's claims.

Samsung produces some of the world's best-selling mobile phones running Google's Android operating system. Google regularly produces software updates that address newly discovered security flaws, and offers these to phone manufacturers such as Samsung. It is often up to the phone manufacturer to distribute the update to its customers. Consumer group Consumentenbond said Samsung was not distributing updates in a "timely" manner. Samsung said it guaranteed consumers in the Netherlands would get software updates for two years after a handset first went on sale in the country. The court ruled in Samsung's favour and said the claims made by Consumentenbond were "inadmissible" because they related to "future acts."

Desktops (Apple)

ProtonMail Launches Free ProtonVPN Service For Macs (bleepingcomputer.com) 30

The creators of popular encrypted email service ProtonMail have released a free version of their ProtonVPN software for macOS. From a report: Even though the free version does not contain the full features that you would come to expect from a paid VPN service it is more than capable of obfuscating IP addresses and your location. While ProtonVPN has already released Windows and Android versions, according to Dr. Andy Yen, CEO of ProtonMail, their reason for releasing the free macOS version "is to make the world a safer place by ensuring that citizens around the world have access to an Internet free of spying and censorship. Releasing a free VPN service for macOS is another important step in that direction."

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