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Google Reportedly Working on Own-Branded Phone Set for Release This Year

Google is set to launch its own smartphone by the end of the year in an effort to compete more directly with Apple and Samsung devices, according to The Telegraph. Citing "senior sources" familiar with the matter, the report claims that the company plans to unveil a Google-branded handset that is separate from its Nexus range of phones, which are designed and manufactured through partnerships with the likes of LG and HTC. Google is also said to be in discussions with mobile operators about the release of the phone by the end of 2016. The Nexus 6 handset by Motorola, one of Google's manufacturing partners. If true, the news would signal a significant shift in ambitions for the company's mobile arm, which has historically focused on software development with its Android OS and left handset design largely in the hands of hardware manufacturers. By contrast, Google's own internal handset division will take full control over "design, manufacturing and software," the newspaper reported. No other details were offered by the sources, while Google declined to comment on the story. Last month, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company was "investing more effort" into phones, although this was interpreted to mean it wanted to work more closely with existing Nexus device makers. Similarly, in April, Recode reported that former president of Motorola Rick Osterloh was returning to Google to take over hardware development on the company's Nexus phones and its OEM partnerships, but no indication was given that an own-branded phone was in the works. Google's Android OS

Google Simplifies 2-Step Verification Process With iOS Search App Prompt

Google is making the two-factor authentication process to log into a user account a simpler affair by integrating it into the company's iOS search app. Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to users' Google Apps accounts by requiring them to enter a verification code in addition to their username and password when signing into their account. The two-step verification process prevents unauthorized access if someone obtains a user password. Previously, users had to opt to receive a text message or phone call to get an authentication code, or alternatively use the Google Authenticator mobile app, which generates time-limited numerical codes that users needed to enter into their account log-in page. The change, which is being rolled out from today, means that when a user tries to sign into a Google account with two-step verification enabled, a notification from the Google search app now asks if they are trying to sign in. A simple tap on the option "Yes, allow sign-in" quickly authenticates the account. To enable two-factor authentication, users need to sign into Google's My Account section and select Google prompt under Sign-in & Security -> Signing in to Google -> 2-Step Verification. Google notes that the option requires a data connection to work, and that it may take up to three days for the feature to appear across all account pages. The Google app is a free download for iPhone and iPad available on the App Store. [Direct Link]

Google's New 'Motion Stills' App Makes Live Photos a Whole Lot Better

Earlier this week, Google released a new app called Motion Stills, designed to turn Live Photos captured with the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE into GIFs or videos. Over the past couple of days, we spent some hands-on time with Motion Stills, and have been really impressed with the way it transforms Live Photos into a more useful, shareable medium. Motion Stills isn't just an app that converts a Live Photo to a GIF. As seen in the video below, it uses Google's video stabilization technology to smooth out jittery images and freeze backgrounds with some impressive-looking results. In addition to serving as a tool to convert Live Photos into GIFs and videos that can be quickly shared on social networks, Motion Stills is also useful simply as a tool to view Live Photos. In Apple's Photos app, there's no dedicated folder for Live Photos, so they can get lost among other images. Live Photos are viewable on Apple devices running iOS 9 or later or OS X 10.11 or later, and Apple has made an API available for developers to build Live Photos support into their apps, but there are no built-in tools for editing Live Photos or converting them to other formats. With no native tools available, Motion Stills fills a major Live Photos void. The app isn't perfect, has a few bugs, and works better with certain types of subjects, but overall, it's well worth checking out if you have a device capable of capturing Live Photos. Motion Stills can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Google Also Planning to Adopt 85/15 Subscription Revenue Split for Developers

Just hours after Apple announced plans to implement App Store revenue sharing changes that will see developers getting an 85/15 revenue split for subscriptions maintained for longer than a year, Re/code says Google is planning on implementing a similar change for Android. According to unnamed sources, Google is going to implement the same 85/15 split, but unlike Apple, Google will make the new revenue sharing changes available without the one year requirement. It is not known when Google will roll out its revenue changes to all developers.Now Google plans to up the ante at its app store: It will also move from a 70/30 split to 85/15 for subscriptions -- but instead of requiring developers to hook a subscriber for 12 months before offering the better split, it will make it available right away. Sources said Google has already been testing the new split with some entertainment companies (so has Apple, to some extent). ​Google started running the new model over a year ago with video services as a way to get Play subscriptions to work with its TV streaming offerings like the Cast dongle.Apple currently takes a 30 percent cut of subscription fees in the App Store with 70 percent going to developers, but that's changing with a new policy that will implement an 85/15 split if a customer stays subscribed to an app for more than one year. For example, if a customer subscribes to Netflix through the App Store and pays $7.99 per month, for the first year, 30 percent of that amount goes to Apple. If a customer stays subscribed, at the start of the second year, Apple's share

Google Debuts 'Motion Stills' App for Creating GIFs and Movies from Live Photos

Google today announced the launch of a new app called Motion Stills, which is designed to create unique GIFs from Live Photo images captured with the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE. According to Google, the app was built by the Google Research Team and uses the company's video stabilization technology to freeze the background into a still photo or create cinematic panoramas. Multiple clips can also be combined into a montage. GIFs created by Motion Stills can be shared via apps like Messages or on social media networks. We pioneered this technology by stabilizing hundreds of millions of videos and creating GIF animations from photo bursts. Our algorithm uses linear programming to compute a virtual camera path that is optimized to recast videos and bursts as if they were filmed using stabilization equipment, yielding a still background or creating cinematic pans to remove shakiness. [...] Short videos are perfect for creating loops, so we added loop optimization to bring out the best in your captures. Our approach identifies optimal start and end points, and also discards blurry frames. As an added benefit, this fixes "pocket shots" (footage of the phone being put back into the pocket).There are several other apps designed to create GIFs for Live Photos, so Google's offering isn't unique, but it is notable that Google is offering an iOS-only app that works with an iOS-only feature. Google says the information it learns from Motion Stills will perhaps be used to introduce new capabilities into Google Photos in the future. Aside from making Live

Nest Co-Founder Tony Fadell Leaving the Company

Tony Fadell, widely known as the "father" of the iPod and the creator of the Nest Learning Thermostat, today announced he is leaving Nest and Nest parent company Alphabet. Fadell, Nest's founder, has been with Google since it acquired Nest for $3.2 billion in 2014 and has worked on projects like Google Glass in addition to continuing to run Nest Labs. In a blog post, Fadell says he has decided the time is right to "leave the Nest," a decision that was originally made late last year. Fadell will not be present for day to day activities at Nest, but he plans to remain involved with the company as an advisor to Alphabet and Larry Page.While there is never a perfect time to transition, we've grown Nest to much more than a thermostat company. We've created a hardware + software + services ecosystem, which is still in the early growth stage and will continue to evolve to move further into the mainstream over the coming years. The future of Nest is equally as bright given the strong and experienced leadership team in place, as well as the two-year product roadmap we've developed together to ensure the right future direction. [...] I will miss this company and my Nest family (although I'll be around to provide advice and guidance and help the team with the transition), but I am excited about what's coming next, both for Nest and for me.Fadell says his new role as advisor will provide him with "time and flexibility" to pursue new opportunities and "create and disrupt other industries." He's leaving Nest with a two-year roadmap in place and Marwan Fawaz, a former Motorola

Google Rolls Out 'Find Your Phone' Account Services to iOS Owners

Google has updated its My Account service to include a feature that helps iPad and iPhone owners locate their lost or stolen iOS device (via TechCrunch). Previously only available to Android owners, the new feature now appears when users sign into their Google "My Account" page under the section "Find your phone", where options exist to locate a device, lock it remotely, call it, secure an account, leave a callback number on its screen, and more. The find and lock features don't actually let Google take control of lost iOS devices, but instead redirect users to the iCloud website, meaning they aren't a replacement for Apple's Find My iPhone service. However, tools for calling a lost phone, remotely signing out of a Google account, and locating a local lost and found should come as welcome additions for Google account holders. Users can access the My Account page from the iOS Google app, by saying, "OK Google, show me my Google account". The company is also working to make the features easier to access in other ways, so that users will be able to access their My Account page simply by Googling their own name, for example. Google's My Account site launched last year to offer Google users centralized access to privacy and security settings across the company’s services. Other options on the My Account site include Ads Settings, Privacy and Security checkups, and more.

Google I/O 2016: Assistant, Home, Allo, Duo, Android N, and More

Google hosted its annual I/O developers keynote at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California today, announcing multiple new products and services related to Android, search, messaging, home automation, and more. Google Assistant Google Assistant is described as a "conversational assistant" that builds upon Google Now based on two-way dialog. The tool can be used, for example, to ask who directed the movie Avatar, and to ask which other movies he has directed, and Google should be able to isolate the questions from the conversation and provide answers. The new Siri and Alexa rival, compatible with both voice and chat, will be widely available on Android, iOS, in the home, and elsewhere later this year. Google Home Google Home is a new Wi-Fi-enabled personal assistant device for the home that enables people to ask Google search queries, manage everyday tasks, enjoy music and entertainment, and more using hands-free "OK Google" voice commands. The Amazon Echo rival features a clean, color-changing design with no buttons, a speaker on the bottom, multiple room support, remote control of Chromecast and other speakers, compatibility with Nest and other popular home automation platforms, and more. Google Home can be used to make general searches, check flight statuses, track shipments, set dinner reservations, turn on lights or play music in certain rooms, receive real-time traffic and routing information, check your appointments, and more. Google Home will be available later this year. Pricing was not

Google Combines Search, YouTube, and Chrome Into New Sharing App 'Spaces'

Google this morning announced a new app called "Spaces" for iOS, Android and desktop, that combines Google Search, YouTube, and Chrome together into one app to easily share and discuss content amongst friends. Similar to Gboard launched last week, Google is hoping to lessen the amount of time needed to jump between apps by streamlining multiple features into one application. To start off, users can create a Space within the app centering around any article or video they like, and invite friends and family to the Space through texts, email, or a connected social network. From there, they can start discussing the topic in question, and even go through old conversations with a search function that can pull up image results as well as hits related to text. Group sharing isn’t easy. From book clubs to house hunts to weekend trips and more, getting friends into the same app can be challenging. Sharing things typically involves hopping between apps to copy and paste links. Group conversations often don’t stay on topic, and things get lost in endless threads that you can’t easily get back to when you need them. We wanted to build a better group sharing experience, so we made a new app called Spaces that lets people get people together instantly to share around any topic. Google said it plans to test out Spaces at its annual Google I/O conference starting this week. The company will have Spaces set up for each session, letting developers and conference goers connect and discuss all of the event's biggest topics in one organized app. The rollout for Spaces is starting

Google Again Surpasses Apple as Most Valuable Company in the World

With Apple shares dipping below $90 this morning, Google's parent company Alphabet briefly overtook Apple as the world's most valuable company hitting a market cap of $498 billion compared to Apple's market cap of $494 billion. Apple and Google shares continue to fluctuate and the two companies are neck-and-neck for the top valuation, but Google remains in the lead. Apple's stock has seen steep declines in recent weeks, following its first ever drop in iPhone sales and its first year-over-year revenue decline since 2003. Apple's share price is down again amid rumors of weak demand for the upcoming iPhone 7 and there's no relief in sight as Apple is also expecting a revenue drop in Q3 2016. Apple's guidance for the quarter includes expected revenue of $41 to $43 billion and gross margin between 37.5 and 38 percent, compared to $49.6 billion revenue and gross margin of 39.7 percent in Q3 2015. Google parent company Alphabet previously overtook Apple as the most valuable company in the world in February of 2016 following a strong Q1 2016 earnings report. Earlier today, Apple was ranked the world's most valuable brand by Forbes, assigned a brand value of $154.1 billion compared to Google's $82.5

Google Debuts 'Gboard' Keyboard for iPhone With Built-In Search Functionality

Google today announced "Gboard," a new third-party keyboard application for iOS devices that directly integrates the company's search capabilities into an iPhone or iPad's keyboard. With the new Google button in Gboard, users can search for information, send what they find, discover GIFs, emojis, and more, without having to exit a messenger app to visit Safari or Chrome. In its blog post, the company gives an example of someone needing to look up the address of a restaurant, normally forcing them to leave the app, perform a search in a mobile web browser, copy the address information, return to Messages, paste it, then send it off. With Gboard, Google hopes to streamline that process into a headache-free card system built around the smaller UI space required of third-party keyboards. With Gboard, you can search and send all kinds of things—restaurant info, flight times, news articles—right from your keyboard. Anything you’d search on Google, you can search with Gboard. Results appear as cards with the key information front and center, such as the phone number, ratings and hours. With one tap, you can send it to your friend and you keep the conversation going. In addition to the basic search feature, Gboard lets users search for emojis -- unlike Apple's first-party keyboard -- by typing in key words like "dancer" to find the corresponding character. There's also a section that lets users browse and search for GIFs, and even glide typing for those who prefer sliding to text instead of tapping each key. Google mentioned that Gboard "works in any app" with a keyboard,

Google Translate Gains Offline Translation in 52 Languages

Google's Google Translate app was today updated to version 5.0.0, adding a new feature that allows users to translate words and phrases even when offline in 52 of the 103 languages available in the app. With the offline update, the app remains useful when no cellular or Wi-Fi connection is available, making it ideal for traveling. Today's update also adds instant camera translation between English and Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), which is useful for reading signs and other content without needing to type words into the app. Instant camera translation is now available in a total of 29 languages and camera mode, which allows users to take pictures of text for higher-quality translations, is available in 37 languages.What's New - Offline translation in 52 languages - Instant camera translation: English to/from Chinese (Simplified and Traditional) - 13 new languagesGoogle Translate can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Google Hangouts for iOS Gains Share Extension and Low Power Mode Support

Google has updated its Hangouts app for iPhone and iPad with a native iOS Share Sheet extension and support for Low Power mode. Google Hangouts for iOS enables users to send and receive instant messages and group messages, share photos, and make video and voice calls using the company's cross-platform communication service. Users can also connect up to Google Voice via the service to link their personal phone numbers, enable SMS and activate voice recognition. The Share extension in version 9.0 of Hangouts means users can now share text, links, images, and video from other apps on their device, while the Low Power support essentially means that the app will now automatically turn off video when the device's battery is depleted to 20% or lower. The Share extension can be activated by tapping the Share button within the app, selecting "More" at the end of the Share Sheet, and toggling the switch next to Hangouts to the ON position. Google Hangouts is a free download on the App Store for iPhone and iPad. [Direct Link]

Google Testing Support for Native OS X Notifications in Chrome

Google's Chrome browser has long supported push notifications, but it's always used its own notification center instead of relying on the OS X Notification Center that was built into Apple's operating system in 2012. That may change in the near future, as Google is experimenting with the built-in OS X Notification Center. Available to all Chrome users as an experimental feature, OS X notifications can be turned on in the current version of the Chrome browser by inserting "chrome://flags/#enable-native-notifications" in the address bar and choosing the "enable" option. It should be noted that a more current version of the feature is available through Chrome Canary, as the implementation on the release browser is 6-12 weeks behind the current state of development. Native OS X notifications are more visually attractive than standard Chrome notifications and they're also listed in the Notification Center window, something that wasn't possible with Chrome notifications. OS X notifications coming from Chrome will also obey Do Not Disturb settings. As The Next Web points out, the Notification Center feature is still in active development so users who choose to turn it on could run into some bugs. Google developers say work on OS X Notification Center integration is being actively pursued, but it is not "100% clear either way" whether support will become official as "certain roadblocks" could potentially prevent that from

Google Announces Cardboard SDK for iOS, 'VR View' Feature for Apps and Websites

Google today announced the launch of a Cardboard SDK for iOS developers, allowing them to more easily create native iPhone apps and experiences that will work with the Google Cardboard virtual reality viewer. The Cardboard SDK for iOS includes all of the features that are already available in the Android Cardboard SDK. For those unfamiliar with Google Cardboard, it is a low-cost viewer designed to work with a range of smartphones from Android devices to iOS devices. The iPhone or other smartphone fits into the front of a viewer made from cardboard or another material, bringing virtual and augmented reality experiences to the user through apps. Google is also debuting VR view, a feature that allows immersive content to be embedded into apps and websites. VR views transform 360 degree VR images or video into an interactive experience that can be viewed on a desktop computer (an example is available in Google's blog post) or with a phone attached to a Cardboard viewer.Travel apps may include turtle photos, but they're nothing like diving into the open ocean. Real estate websites may include descriptions of the dining room, but it's nothing like actually touring the home. For developers, having immersive elements in their apps and websites can be the difference between meh and magical. That's why we're introducing VR view--a quick and easy way to embed immersive content on Android, iOS and the web.The Cardboard SDK for iOS and the tools for creating VR views are available starting

Google Developing Search-Focused Third-Party Keyboard for iOS

Google is working on a third-party keyboard designed for iOS devices that would incorporate search functionality, reports The Verge. Citing people familiar with Google's plans, The Verge says the keyboard, which has been in development for several months, "incorporates a variety of search options" to attract more Google search users on iOS devices. The keyboard is said to feature gesture-based typing like Swype, allowing users to slide their fingers across the keyboard to enter letters. Tapping on a built-in Google logo brings up a web search bar, and there are also options for searching for pictures and GIFs. Design elements are not clear, but it is apparently "visually distinct" from the standard keyboard available on Android devices. News of Google's work on an iOS keyboard comes just a few months after images surfaced of a Word Flow Windows Phone-style keyboard Microsoft is developing for iOS devices. It is not known when Google might release its keyboard, and a release date for the Microsoft keyboard is also unavailable. Google and Microsoft's effort to develop keyboards for Apple devices is curious, as third-party keyboards have not proven to be particularly popular with iOS users due to ongoing issues with slowness, crashing, and other

Apple Inks Deal to Use Google Cloud Platform for Some iCloud Services

Apple has signed a deal with Google that will see the Google Cloud Platform providing some of the cloud infrastructure for iCloud and other cloud-based Apple services, reports CRN (via Business Insider). Apple reportedly established a $400 to $600 million deal with Google last last year and has, as a result, "significantly" cut down on its reliance on Amazon Web Services (AWS). According to the sources, Google executives have told partners that Apple is spending between $400 million and $600 million on Google Cloud Platform, although this couldn't be independently confirmed. Also unclear is whether this range refers to an annual spending rate or a set amount of capacity.While the money Apple is now paying Google was previously spent on AWS, Apple has not stopped using Amazon's cloud computing services entirely. Apple has never confirmed the cloud services that power iCloud, but past rumors have pointed towards AWS and Microsoft Azure, suggesting Apple will continue using multiple services to meet its needs. According to The Information's Amir Efrati, who has confirmed Apple's plans, it will take a year for Apple to transition to using Google Cloud Platform. It’s true, @iCloud to be partially powered by @googlecloud. But will take a year & unlikely to be profitable. @awscloud lost $ from iCloud.— Amir Efrati (@amir) March 16, 2016 Since last year, Google has been aggressively pursuing deals for its Google Cloud Platform, led by former VMware CEO Diane Greene. Google and Amazon have been involved in ongoing pricing wars, but Google claims to be the "price/performance

Google Testing 'Hands Free' Payment System on Android and iOS

Google today announced a pilot program for its "Hands Free" payment service, allowing customers in the southern part of the San Francisco Bay Area to pay for goods and services over Bluetooth using a photograph for confirmation. Hands Free, as the name implies, is aimed at allowing people to make purchases without the need to pull out a phone or a wallet. It requires customers to create a profile (with photo) through the Hands Free app, available for both iOS and Android. When in a location that supports Hands Free payments, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and location services on the phone will communicate with the store's cash point-of-sale system. When ready to make a payment, customers can say "I'll pay with Google," and the cashier will confirm the payment using the person's initials and the photo associated with the Hands Free app, both of which are displayed to the cashier on the cash register. In select locations, Google is also using a visual identification via an in-store camera to confirm identity based on the Hands Free profile picture. As with Android Pay, Hands Free does not transmit full card details to retailers, and purchases made send notifications to the accompanying phone. Google says it sends alerts if any unusual activity is detected and suspicious transactions won't go through without approval. Hands Free payment options are currently available at select locations in the South Bay, including McDonald's and Papa John's Pizza. The Hands Free app for the iPhone can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Google Maps for iOS Gaining New 'Pit Stop' Feature

Google today announced an incoming update to its Google Maps for iOS app that will let users add pit stops onto their trips without leaving navigation mode. First introduced on Android last fall, the company said that the pit stop feature will be available in any country where Google Maps navigation is offered, which is "more than 100 worldwide." From navigation mode, users will just need to tap the magnifying glass located in the top right corner of Google Maps to see a drop down menu of potential pit stops to add to a trip. The menu offers a few automatic options like restaurants and coffee shops, but a search field gives users a more robust option for specifically finding their desired pit stop. Life is full of the unexpected—things that send us scrambling for a gas station in the middle of nowhere, looking up a florist on our way home from work or searching for a restaurant as we tour the back roads of our latest vacation destination. Finding and navigating to these last-minute pit stops used to force you out of navigation mode in Google Maps—and away from the traffic updates, turn-by-turn directions and map you rely on to stay on track. Similar to Android, the new function on iOS details both the public rating of the pit stop and the amount of time the detour will add onto a trip, letting users select the best-rated and quickest pit stop beforehand. Prior to the update, Google Maps users would have to manually discover and find a potential pit stop, navigate to the location, and when ready to leave, re-start their original route navigation. The company said

Google CEO Calls FBI's Request for Apple Backdoor 'A Troubling Precedent'

This morning, Apple CEO Tim Cook published an open letter declaring the company's intention to oppose an order from a U.S. federal judge that would require Apple to give the FBI the tools to bypass the passcode on an iPhone owned by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. Since then, dozens of government officials, members of the media, and tech company leaders have weighed in on the issue, including Sundar Pichai, Google's CEO. In a series of tweets shared this afternoon, Pichai seemingly sided with Apple, saying the FBI's request to enable a backdoor "could compromise users' privacy." He went on to say that while Google understands the challenges law enforcement faces and supports providing access to data based on valid legal orders, that's "wholly different" than ordering companies to "enable hacking of customer devices & data," something he says "could be a troubling precedent." 4/5 But that’s wholly different than requiring companies to enable hacking of customer devices & data. Could be a troubling precedent— sundarpichai (@sundarpichai) February 17, 2016 As the company behind Android, the other major operating system widely used by smartphone owners, Google's opinion on the issue carries some weight. People have been waiting to see what stance Google would take and whether the company would back Apple. Other tech company CEOs, including those from Twitter and Facebook, have yet to share an opinion, but WhatsApp CEO and founder Jan Koum wrote a strong statement supporting Apple this morning. "We must not allow this dangerous precedent to be set," he penned.