Tag Archives: Android

Essential Products, Startup from Android Creator Andy Rubin, Lays Off 30% of Staff
October 18, 2018 12:01 am|Comments (0)

A startup founded by the creator of Android has laid off about 30% of its staff, according to sources that spoke to Bloomberg News. Andy Rubin started Essential Products in 2015 with Brian Wallace, formerly of Magic Leap, to create a smartphone with high-end design features that wasn’t associated with a particular operating-system maker.

Cuts were particularly deep in hardware and marketing. The company’s Web site indicates it has about 120 employees. A company spokesperson didn’t confirm the extent of layoffs, but said that the decision was difficult for the firm to make and, “We are confident that our sharpened product focus will help us deliver a truly game changing consumer product.”

The firm was Rubin’s first startup after leaving Google in 2014, which had acquired his co-founded firm, Android, in 2005.

Essential’s first phone came out in August 2017, a few weeks later than initially promised. It received mixed reviews, with most critics citing its lower quality and missing features relative to competing smartphones, such as a lack of waterproofing and poor resiliency to damage. The company dropped the price from an initial $ 699 within weeks to $ 499, and offered it on Black Monday in November 2017 for $ 399.

Analyst reports showed the company sold just 5,000 units in the first two weeks of sales, and 88,000 in the first six months. By comparison, over 400 million other smartphones sold in just the last three months of 2017.

The company canceled production of its second smartphone model in May 2018, and shifted to work on other hardware, reportedly including smart speakers. At the time, Rubin said that his company had “multiple products in development,” including mobile and home hardware. The company had a valuation of nearly $ 1 billion in 2017, and was seeking additional financing earlier this year. It may have been or may remain up for sale. The company didn’t deny reports at the time, and hasn’t provided more detail on its plans since.

Rubin took a short leave of absence from Essential in late 2017 after the tech news site The Information reported on a complaint lodged against him at Google in 2014 that alleged he engaged in a relationship with a subordinate. Rubin said the relationship was consensual and didn’t involve someone who reported to him.

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OnePlus 6 Review: The Best Affordable Android Phone of 2018
May 21, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

OnePlus is an odd duck in the smartphone business. It tends to make one phone at a time with a simple and clear goal: to pack all the latest trends and tech into an Android phone that costs about $ 500. It doesn’t waste time developing a ton of custom features, like LG’s crazy AI-powered camera, nor does it make any effort to woo U.S. wireless carriers. If you want a OnePlus phone, you have to buy it unlocked, directly from OnePlus. For as offbeat as it seems, the strategy appears to be working.

The 2017 OnePlus 5T sold out faster than anticipated and now OnePlus is back a mere six months later with its successor. If you obsessively follow smartphone trends, you can probably guess the OnePlus 6’s new features: A longer screen with a notch cutout up top, glass on the back, Android 8 Oreo, and a top-shelf Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor.

The OnePlus 6 holds no major surprises, and that’s exactly how OnePlus likes it.

Gestures and Glass

Metal frame. Gorilla Glass back with curved edges. If you’ve held a top-tier smartphone in the last year, you can imagine exactly what the OnePlus 6 feels like.

The 6 is roughly the same size as the 5T, with a taller 6.28-inch 1080p AMOLED screen (spoiler warning: it looks great in spite of its HD resolution) that stretches from the bottom (almost) all the way up to the tippy top. Unlike LG’s G7, OnePlus makes no major effort to hide its notch. It’s only 3/4 of an inch across, which makes it less distracting than Apple’s iconic (or, depending on how you feel, infamous) iPhone X notch, which is so wide that there’s little room for anything else along the top edge.

The fingerprint sensor sits a bit lower on the back of the phone, but I noticed that it seemed less capable than before. It’s still speedy at unlocking, but one of my favorite features on the 5T was the ability to swipe the fingerprint sensor to pull down the notification tray. The 6 cannot do that. Luckily you can still swipe down from anywhere on the home screen to open notifications, or swipe up to pull out the app drawer. These are simple features that make life with a large-screened phone way more enjoyable. I can only hope that OnePlus adds this functionality with a software update.

OnePlus’s mute switch is now on the right side of the phone, letting you easily switch to vibrate and silent modes, much like the toggle on the side of every iPhone. The built-in audio jack is also a godsend if you love music. You get the versatility of USB-C and a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can jam out while you charge the device.

The slick glass back may give you trouble, though. It’s more slippery than some Android phones, which has led to a few slip-ups where I had to catch the phone before it hit the ground. It also attracts fingerprints and converts them into a gross, gunky patina at an alarming rate. To my surprise, OnePlus includes a semi-transparent plastic case with each OnePlus 6, which makes it a bit easier to grip, and should offer some protection. If you’re paranoid, this Dretal case should buy you even more peace of mind.

The screen protector that comes preinstalled on the OnePlus 6 should also help the phone stay protected. That is, as long as you don’t accidentally tear it off like I did. Oops.

Snappy and Speedy

OnePlus doesn’t mess with Android Oreo much with its variant it calls OxygenOS. My unit got the latest security patch (hopefully the first of many), and the experience is nearly identical to a Google Pixel 2—currently our favorite Android phone because of its camera and thanks to feature and security updates direct from Google.

OnePlus/Bluehole

The OnePlus 6 is particularly snappy. Apps and menus seem to open even faster than the LG G7, another 2018 phone with a Snapdragon 845 chip. OnePlus explained that this added quickness is because it prioritizes what parts of an app it needs to load, increasing speeds by about 10 percent. It also made small efforts to increase performance in games and can boost network speed of those games by slowing down any apps sucking up data in the background.

Battery life is about 1.5 days—nothing dramatic but also no worse than most high-end phones. There’s no wireless charging, but the custom USB-C charger does juice up the phone very quickly by offloading some charging management to the included fast charger.

A Capable Cam

Photo quality continues to slowly improve with each new OnePlus. The 16-megapixel main rear camera has a bigger sensor this time around, and does an adequate job under most conditions, even if it still struggles in low light sometimes. The background-blurring portrait mode seems to be more reliable, but it’s still not uncommon for the phone to accidentally blur part of a foreground object.

There’s a super slow-mo mode now (netting you 480 fps at 720p), and added optical image stabilization for video, which can record in 4K at 60 frames per second.

The 16-megapixel selfie cam takes a sufficient selfie that’s noticeably less washed out in bright light, but I’m still bothered by the odd way it saves them mirrored (backward) by default. You can fix this by swiping up from the bottom of the camera app and hitting the settings button that’s hiding in the corner.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the convenient Face Unlock feature. It’s quick and works well enough that I hardly notice it, though I worry about security since it’s not nearly as robust as a Galaxy S9 or an iPhone X in that regard. Hopefully there aren’t a lot of phone thieves out there with 3D-printed copies of my face. If there are, I might be in trouble. Then again, maybe not.

On the whole, the camera is good relative to the cost of the phone, but it’s nowhere near the quality of the Pixel 2.

A Bargain Without the Bin

I might not love its fragile glass construction or its middle-of-the-road camera, but let me make it abundantly clear: the OnePlus 6 is a kickass Android phone and the best unlocked device you can buy for around $ 500. The only big caveat worth highlighting is carrier compatibility. The OnePlus 6 still only works on AT&T, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and others that use similar networks. Even though it technically has the right bands, it won’t run on CDMA carriers like Sprint or Verizon.

OnePlus sells two unlocked versions of the 6: a $ 529 model with 6GB RAM and 64GB of file and photo storage and a $ 579 upgrade with 8GB RAM and 128GB of storage. If you have a lot of photos or apps, get the 128GB version. There is no way to expand the phone’s memory, so once you’re out of storage space, you’ll have to start micromanaging your memory, which isn’t fun. For most folks, 64GB should be enough, but check the capacity of your current device just to be sure.

If you want the best of the best, you can purchase Android phones that edge out the OnePlus 6 in one regard or another, but it’s hard to beat a phone that’s as powerful as a Galaxy S9, yet nearly $ 200 cheaper. OnePlus continues to offer stellar value here, making the OnePlus 6 a true bargain.

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Google launches Android Things for appliances as earlier spinoffs scramble to catch on
May 7, 2018 6:07 pm|Comments (0)

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google (GOOGL.O) on Monday launched a spinoff of its Android operating system for home appliances and other machines, following mixed results with Android offshoots for cars, smartwatches and televisions.

FILE PHOTO: A man walks through light rain in front of the Hey Google booth under construction at the Las Vegas Convention Center in preparation for the 2018 CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. January 8, 2018. REUTERS/Steve Marcus/File Photo

‘Android Things’, which arrives as Google opens its annual conference for developers, could bring its Google Assistant virtual helper to refrigerators and robots and familiar designs to cash registers and vending machines.

“The goal is to enable them to be built faster, cheaper and more secure,” said Venkat Rapaka, a product management director at Google.

Android derivatives aim to provide users with a consistent interface across devices, while Google and its business partners benefit from a standard way to distribute their applications.

Though Google does not charge hardware manufacturers for Android, it expects to generate a return as consumers use new gadgets to use search, watch videos on YouTube and buy content from its Play Store.

The Android operating system powers many of the world’s smartphones and drives consumers to Google’s cash-minting apps.

But Google has struggled to extend Android’s dominance into other areas over the last four years, technology and financial analysts said.

“If you’re charitable, you say it’s early,” said Richard Kramer of Arete Research. “If you’re not, you say Android is irrelevant outside phones.”

Android Automotive is not yet deeply embedded in any cars. Shipments of smartwatches with Google’s Wear OS were outnumbered five-to-one by rival Apple Inc (AAPL.O) devices last year, according to research firm IDC. Four times as many smart TV shipments last year had Samsung’s (005930.KS) operating system as Android TV, according to IHS Markit.

In each category, Google’s Android system posted less market share last year than manufacturer-customized Android variants, which are less fruitful for Google because they typically are not pre-loaded or compatible with its apps.

Android variants thrive in China, where Google does not operate.

Google also has been slowed by resistance from carmakers to hand over a key interface, smartwatches from consumer electronics brands that failed to attract mass appeal and TV software that manufacturers found too rigid, analysts said.

Google officials said the spinoffs have momentum. Activations of Wear OS devices rose 70 percent late last year compared to the year-earlier period. Android TV activations doubled last year compared to the year before, while vehicles with Android embedded should arrive next year, company officials told Reuters.

South Asia and Latin America are bright spots, they said. Android TV had “tremendous traction over the last year” from Asian cable and satellite operators seeking it for set-top boxes, said Google product management director Shalini Govil-Pai.

Android Automotive was gaining attention from Indian automakers and from Brazil, said Patrick Brady, a Google engineering vice president.

Android Things competes with Amazon.com Inc’s (AMZN.O) Greengrass system and Microsoft’s (MSFT.O) Windows IoT.

Google says it will guarantee three years of free security patches to hardware makers and paid extended options. It is also considering automated security scans of device makers’ apps.

Health technology startup Byteflies, an Android Things tester, said it viewed the system’s optional integration with Google’s cloud computing service and the large Android developer community as big advantages.

Reporting by Paresh Dave, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

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These are Google Android 8.1's five best features
December 29, 2017 6:00 am|Comments (0)

I’ve been using Android 8.1 for several weeks now on my Pixel 2 smartphone, and I’m impressed.

It’s not so much that Android 8.1 is a big jump forward for most end-users. It’s not. Google’s major 2017 Android improvements came with Android 8.0. With a smartphone containing a Pixel Visual Core chip, it’s a dramatically different story.

1) Visual Core

The Visual Core is Google’s first custom-designed consumer processor. It’s a dedicated image processing chip. Today, it’s only in the new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Tomorrow, it may be appearing in other smartphones.

CNET: Google Pixel 2 XL review: Promising phone with new caveats

With Android 8.1, the Visual Core chip has been activated and the results are dramatically better photos. First, it takes much faster High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos. By taking a series of photographs in micro-seconds, HDR-enhanced cameras do a much better job of capturing the full range of darkest blacks and lightest whites than older digital cameras.

With Google’s HDR+, your smartphone camera takes a rapid burst of pictures. The Visual Core chip then combines them five times faster than previous generation of processors into one superior picture. You may not notice the speed, but what you will notice is how much more detail you’ll get from low-light photographs.

You used to only be able to take HDR+ photos using the Google photo app. Now, third-party camera apps, which use the Android Camera application programming interface (API), such as Instagram and Snapchat, can also take advantage of HDR+’s superior processing for better photos.

2) Neural Network API

Any device which can upgrade to Android 8.1, which for now are the Pixel 2 and 2 XL, the Pixel 1 and 1 XL, the Pixel C tablet, and the Nexus 6P and 5X, can make use of Google’s Neural Networks API (NNAPI). While as a user you won’t notice anything immediately from this improvement, Android developers will. NNAPI is designed to make it possible to run machine-learning (ML) on mobile devices. This API provides a base layer, higher-level, ML framework. This, in turn, can be used by Google’s TensorFlow Lite.

What this means for you as a user is you can expect to see some very interesting smart applications coming your way soon. For example, by this time next year, you can expect speech recognition and language translation apps, which will approach Star Trek-levels of coolness.

3) Bluetooth battery levels measurements

Do you get sick and tired of not knowing if your Bluetooth earphones or headset are about to die on you? I know I do. With Android 8.1, you’ll find a Bluetooth battery display in the Bluetooth settings. I’d still rather have it on the top status bar, but this is a lot better than fumbling with my Bluetooth gadgets.

4) Better screen management

On some smartphones, notably the Pixel 2 XL, some people were seeing screen burn-in. If you don’t recall this ugly blast from old style CRT display’s past, screen burn happens when the same screen elements — such as the navigation icons or the clock — are always on. After time, these elements are “burned” into the display so their ghostly presence remains even when they should be gone.

With Android 8.1, smartphones now vary how these are displayed. The result? The end of screen burn.

5) New look

There aren’t any major changes to the interface, but there are some useful ones. These include the Pixel Launcher. This makes it easier than ever to access Google search functions and installed apps. Android’s quick settings are transparent now so you can still see a hint of the main screen beneath it. There are also new launcher themes.

All-in-all, Android 8.1 is a good step forward. What I’m really looking forward to though is seeing more smartphone vendors bringing it to their flagship phones. Thanks to Google’s Project Treble.

TechRepublic: Android Oreo rollback protection prevents hackers from exploiting past vulnerabilities

Before Treble, which first appears in Android 8.0, when Google launched a new Android version, the chip OEMs, such as Mediatek and Qualcomm, had to add drivers so their silicon could run it. Then the device vendors added their customizations. Finally, the carriers had to bless the update. Then, and only then, could you get a new version of Android on your old phone. What a mess!

Project Treble has redesigned Android to make it easier, faster, and cheaper for manufacturers to update devices to a new version of Android. It does this by separating the device-specific, lower-level software — written mostly by the silicon manufacturers — from the Android OS Framework.

By working with the chipset OEMs, the vendor interface is validated by a Vendor Test Suite (VTS). In short, Google is cutting out some of the fat, which makes Android updates so slow.

If the phone vendors cooperate by not adding too much of their own spice to the stew, many of you may finally see Android 8 and 8.1 on your phones before I’m writing about the release of Android 9.

Related Stories:

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10 new Android O features that will make your phone better
July 30, 2017 9:05 am|Comments (0)

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Though we got out first peek at Android O back in March, Google finally revealed  more details this week at its I/O developers conference about the soon-to-drop version of Android.

Though we’re still quite a ways away from the official release, we now a lot more about the update. At first glance, many of the new changes are subtle, building on updates Google introduced last year with Nougat. (Yes, it’s another boring year for Android.)

Still, there are quite a few features to look forward to, here’s what’s caught our eye so far. Read more…

More about Tech, Google, Android, Apps And Software, and Android O


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Android Wear 2.0 Update Details Emerge
April 15, 2017 11:50 am|Comments (0)

Fossil, Asus and Polar have revealed their Wear 2.0 upgrade timeframes


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Google may ‘shame’ carriers and manufacturers into updating Android faster
May 26, 2016 5:05 am|Comments (0)

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Google may be taking a new tactic in persuading phone manufacturers and carriers to push out Android updates faster.

The company is considering a plan that would publicly “shame” device makers and carriers who don’t keep up with the latest Android software updates, according to a new report in Bloomberg

SEE ALSO: Android is boring

Google has created a list that ranks smartphone manufacturers and carriers “by how up-to-date their handsets are, based on security patches and operating system versions,” according to the report. Though the list has only been shared with Google’s partners for now, the company is apparently considering making it public in the hopes of “shaming” the companies into doing a better job at keeping their customers’ devices up to date.  Read more…

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Flurry data shows Apple Watch and Android Wear may have spawned new interest in health apps
May 15, 2016 5:40 pm|Comments (0)


A new report from Flurry notes that of all the apps we have access to, those in the Health and Fitness categories on Google Play and in the App Store are the ones we rely on. Based on two metrics — use per week and 30-day retention — Flurry’s findings suggest health apps are only rivaled by weather or news. The lone failing of health apps is how often we tap into them, but that may be a poor metric to consider if we’re using wearables. With Apple Watch, the wearables market exploded along with apps for wearables. With a…

This story continues at The Next Web


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Microsoft launches meeting app Invite for iPhone, coming soon to Android and Windows Phone
November 6, 2015 8:50 am|Comments (0)

One of the meeting rooms at Communitech, a startup mecca in Waterloo, Ontario. Google also has 200 employees here.

Microsoft today launched a new standalone app for scheduling meetings called Invite. Available only for iPhone users in the U.S. and Canada for now, you can download Invite now directly from Apple’s App Store.

Here is how it works. First you suggest times that work for you, and then invite attendees to vote. You can send invites to anyone with an email address — even if they are outside your organization. The recipients select all the times they can attend from the app itself or from a browser, once votes are in, you pick the time that works best.

microsoft_invite

The best part is that anyone invited can see what options work best for other attendees, and suggest their own times as well. The sender chooses a final date and time whenever they’re ready, hitting Send Calendar Invites to get it on everyone’s calendars.

Here is how Microsoft explains its thinking behind the app:

Invite is designed to overcome the biggest obstacle when scheduling meetings — not being able to see the calendars of attendees outside your organization. As a result, your proposed meeting can be repeatedly declined until you find a time that works.

From VentureBeat

Location, location, location — Not using geolocation to reach your mobile customers? Your competitors are. Find out what you’re missing.

Certain events and meetings can be moved if something more important comes up, but only each person knows best where they are flexible. By letting attendees pick times that work for them, even when it means moving one of their own meetings, can stop that meeting from being scheduled on a Friday evening.

Invite is mainly designed for users with Office 365 business and school accounts. That said, the app also works with any email account, including Outlook.com, Gmail, and Yahoo Mail.

The app’s launch and limitations are very similar to Microsoft’s Send, a lightweight email app that debuted in July. Like Send, Invite is starting out as iPhone-only, available only in two countries, and with the promise of “coming soon” to Android and Windows Phone.

Invite is the latest in a long line of apps to emerge from Microsoft Garage, the software giant’s lab for experimental tinkering. At this rate, Microsoft will soon have more experimental apps than “final” apps.

And that’s okay, as long as some of them are eventually released or integrated into existing products.

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