Google to let Android users in Europe choose their default search engine -- and will make money in doing so
In response to a $5 billion fine for antitrust violations in Europe, Google has announced that it will introduce a new "search engine choice" option next year. It's an idea that is similar to the Browser Choice screen Microsoft introduced following anti-competition complaints about Internet Explorer.
Google will "introduce a new way for Android users to select a search provider to power a search box on their home screen and as the default in Chrome (if installed)" in Europe starting in 2020. The search engines that appear in the list will be determined by auctions. Google rivals will have to bid to be featured in the list, meaning the company will -- controversially -- make money from giving users choice.
If you ever find yourself in an emergency situation, you can just call 911 for help, right? Well, usually, but not always. In some situations, you may be unable to communicate verbally. God forbid, but what if you are kidnapped and forcefully gagged by an assailant? Maybe an intruder is in your home and you are hiding in a closet -- calling 911 might alert the bad person of your location. Hell, maybe you have a brain incident, such as a stroke, that causes you to lose verbal skills. As you can see, calling for help isn't always so easy.
Today, Google announces a brilliant new Android feature that is certain to save lives. Starting with Pixel smartphones, users will be able to initiate an audio call to emergency services where the phone verbally communicates for you. In other words, by just tapping the on-screen buttons, a 911 operator will be told the general nature of the emergency and your location. Cool, right? This should prove indispensable for those that find themselves in a non-verbal situation.
Android tablets have fallen out of favor with consumers, and that's sad. Things have gotten so bad for this device type that Google -- the maker of Android -- has even pulled the plug on making them. Yikes! That is as ominous as it gets, folks. Why did this happen? Well, I blame the influx of cheap no-name tablets from China that crowded the market. Not to mention, smartphones started getting ridiculously large, making tablets a bit redundant. Ultimately, Android tablets became synonymous with crap. With the exception of Samsung and Huawei, quality tablets running Google's mobile OS have been few and far between.
Today, Samsung announces its latest Android tablet, and you know what? It is actually very exciting. Called "Galaxy Tab S6," it is just 5.7mm thin and has a 10.5-inch Super AMOLED screen. The device is outfitted with some really cool technology too. For instance, it has an in-display fingerprint reader and a dual-camera setup on the rear -- one of the lenses is "ultra wide." It features an octa-core processor with either 6GB or 8GB of RAM -- depending on configuration. Storage is either 128GB or 256GB, and yes, you can increase that using micro SD. The super-cool DeX feature, which can essentially transform the tablet into a desktop/laptop experience, is also included.
Folding smartphones are probably still the future, despite Samsung's epic fail with the Galaxy Fold. It's hard to fault the company for being overly ambitious -- we need the envelope to be pushed for true innovation to come to market -- but clearly, it was not ready for prime time. As reviewers who got an early look quickly found out, Galaxy Fold was ridiculously fragile, and what looked like a screen protector actually wasn't -- peeling it off destroyed the damn thing.
After all the bad press, I actually assumed the Galaxy Fold would be canceled entirely. It would make sense to simply try a folding phone again in the future with a new name. Well, surprisingly, Samsung has decided to stay the course and release the Galaxy Fold this September -- after some revisions, of course.
Microsoft has announced that it is cutting the SMS Connect feature from Skype at the end of August.
The feature -- which makes it possible for Android users to send and receive text messages via Skype on their computers -- has been dropped in the past but made a reappearance last year. But now Microsoft is trying to push people into using the Your Phone app instead.
I’ve switched between owning an iPhone and various Android handsets over the years, but for me iOS remains easily the best mobile operating system (and iPhone XS the best smartphone). It would take something very special to tempt me back to Android.
Something like this stylish vision of Android 11.
China's track record with privacy violations, control of the internet and control of its citizens is well known. But now anyone who has ever visited the country has cause for concern.
Enter China via the border crossing between Xinjiang and Kyrgyzstan, and you're required to hand over your phone -- unlocked. This would obviously lead the owner to expect a little rooting around by officials, but an investigation has found that border officials are actually installing secret spy apps on iPhones and Android phones to scour emails, texts and other data stored on devices.
Every year a new iPhone hits the market and there are thousands of different Android devices in circulation. Both Apple and Google are constantly adding new features and functions to incorporate emerging technologies, maintain competitiveness, and cement their reputations as innovators.
Commercial focus typically sits with the clamor of more surface-level, UI related features like Memojis, Group FaceTime, gesture navigation, the features that consumers are drawn to rather than the patching of CVE-2018-4249. It’s all a matter of priorities, people want a device with all the mod cons, a mobile device just needs to be secure enough, meeting minimum expectations. It also doesn’t help that there has been a long held misconception that mobile OSs are secure enough and users don’t need a security solution. Despite mobile OSs becoming relatively hardened, usage is very different compared to traditional form factors, and there are a number of threat vectors that an OS can’t protect against.
Google is getting out of the tablet-making business, but says that it will continue to produce smartphones and laptops.
The announcement means that Google is ceasing work on two unreleased Pixel tablets, with the company's head of hardware saying: "Google's hardware team will be solely focused on building laptops moving forward". While ditching tablets is not entirely surprising, Google is said to have been working on two new tablets until as recently as this week.
There has been much talk about SMS successor RCS (Rich Communication Service) over the last year or so, but there has been little in the way of action. But this is about to change.
Seemingly tired of carriers and handset makers dawdling, Google is bringing RCS messaging to Android users in the UK and France. With Google taking control of RCS, the service could become the company's version of iMessage before long, and it means users will be able to experience it sooner than they might have expected.
That Facebook gathers personal information from its users should come as no surprise -- it could be argued that it is the social network's raison d' être. Following numerous privacy scandals, and the controversial (and since-closed) Research and Onavo programs, Facebook is now ready to be open about its data collection, and is even willing to pay people for this.
The new "Study from Facebook" app gives Facebook users the chance to volunteer to share information about their app usage -- and get paid for divulging this information. Sound good to you?
Donald Trump may have a bug up his ass over Huawei, but anti-Chinese propaganda aside, consumers around the world love the company's devices. Huawei's laptops, smartphones, and tablets are well-received by both professional reviewers and consumers. There should be no mystery how Huawei achieves such praise -- its products are elegant, well built, and not overly priced. The P30 Pro might be the best Android smartphone on the market.
With Android in particular, Huawei is not only providing an excellent customer experience through hardware, but with OS updates too. In fact, the company is celebrating an impressive milestone -- more than 80 million Huawei device users are now on Android 9.0 Pie. Technically, it is EMUI 9, which is Android plus Huawei's improvements. This puts many other device makers, such as Samsung and LG to shame.
Smartphones are way too expensive these days, with prices for some flagships hovering around $1,000. If you are wealthy and have a lot of disposable income, this probably doesn't bother you. For regular folks, however, this is simply too much to ask. Thankfully, Google heard the cries from its more meager customers and released the well-received Pixel 3a and 3a XL smartphones, starting at $399 and $479 respectively.
Even though these phones are more affordable, that doesn't mean consumers can afford to break them. A case is still a wise investment, even if your smartphone costs less than $500. With that said, popular case-maker Urban Armor Gear (UAG) has released new Scout Series cases for both the Pixel 3a and 3a XL. The case is very rugged and officially sanctioned as a "Made For Google" accessory.
Cloudflare's 220.127.116.11 DNS switching tool has proved very popular with iOS and Android users looking to take control of their internet connections, and there was much excitement when the company announced that it would be releasing a free VPN tool called Warp.
At the moment, there is a lengthy waiting list for the free VPN (I'm number 278100 on the list, for instance) but we've been given a sneak peak at what to expect. Leaked screenshots show off the free VPN, and a video gives you an idea of the sort of performance you can expect.
OnePlus smartphones are very well received by those wanting a pure Android experience. They are also popular with budget shoppers, as they have historically been very affordable. Over time, however, OnePlus has been increasing prices, reducing the perceived value of these devices. With the OnePlus 7 Pro, for instance, the starting price is $700 -- a significant amount of money. With that said, it stills costs less than some flagship phones from other manufacturers, such as Samsung and Apple.
If you do decide to drop a big chunk of change on the OnePlus 7 Pro, I hope you would protect it with a case. Today, famed case manufacturer Urban Armor Gear releases such a product -- the Plasma Series case for OnePlus 7 Pro. It is a very rugged case with a pretty reasonable price tag. And yes, the case is designed to accommodate the device's unique pop-up front-facing camera.