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Hands-On With Google's New FaceTime-Like 'Duo' App

This week, Google released a new app called Duo, which allows for FaceTime-style video calling. Unlike FaceTime, though, Duo allows for cross platform calls that work on both Android and iOS mobile devices, so it isn't limited to users who only have an iPhone. In the video below, we went hands on with Duo to see just how well it works and whether it's a serious FaceTime competitor. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. The Duo app is rather simple, with a similar interface on Android and iOS devices. You sign into the app using your phone number, and once logged in, you have a list of contacts to call pulled from the existing contacts in your phone. That's it. When in a video call, you get many of the features you'd expect from a service like FaceTime, including mute, switching between the rear and front-facing camera, and ending the call. One new feature, however, is called Knock Knock, which is a sort of video caller-ID that lets the person receiving a call see what the caller is doing before answering. Think of it like a FaceTime video preview that's available before the FaceTime call is accepted. Because Duo uses a phone number for authentication, the app is not available for the desktop, and you are only able to use one device associated with a certain phone number at a time. This may be a deal breaker for those who like to chat on multiple devices, but for those looking for easy video calling, it's worth a try. We all likely know someone who doesn't use an iPhone, and Duo seems to be a good alternative for those looking for a

Google Releases New Video Calling App Called 'Duo'

Google has announced a new one-to-one video calling app for iOS and Android called Duo, which the company says aims to take the complexity and frustration out of video calling. Users of Duo sign into the app using just their phone number and Google then sends them a confirmation text. After that, users can video call anyone in their contacts list who also have Duo installed. Google says Duo is built to be fast and reliable, so that video calls connect quickly and work well even on slower networks. Call quality adjusts to changing network conditions to keep you connected — when bandwidth is limited, Duo will gracefully reduce the resolution to keep the call going smoothly. For video calls on the go, Duo will switch between Wi-Fi and cellular data automatically without dropping your call. You can start your call at home, and continue seamlessly even when you head out the door. Apart from its simplicity, Google is heavily hyping a feature (currently limited to Android) called "Knock, Knock", where a known caller's live video can be transmitted before the receiver has answered, allowing them to reveal things on the screen to entice the person to accept the connection. Once they do so, the video continues seamlessly, which makes video calling "more spontaneous and welcoming, helping you connect with the person before you even pick up," says Google. The company has made no mention about whether the feature will be coming to iOS - and even if it did, users would have to unlock their iPhone first before taking a call. Google notes that Duo isn't a replacement

Google Announces 97 Percent of YouTube Traffic is Now Encrypted

Google yesterday posted an entry on its YouTube Engineering and Developers Blog, detailing the increased encryption achieved by the company for its video streaming site. Over the past few months, Google has slowly bolstered the encryption for YouTube, and now 97 percent of the service's traffic is encrypted using HTTPS. The encryption-enforcing protocol provides "critical security and data integrity" for any website that uses it, and all of its visitors. YouTube said that three reasons it took the company so long to reach this high level of encryption was because of the heavy traffic the site receives daily, the breadth of devices that HTTPS needs to work on due to YouTube's ubiquity, and "mixed content" that leads to lots of potentially non-secure requests. We're also proud to be using HTTP Secure Transport Security (HSTS) on youtube.com to cut down on HTTP to HTTPS redirects. This improves both security and latency for end users. Our HSTS lifetime is one year, and we hope to preload this soon in web browsers. In the real world, we know that any non-secure HTTP traffic could be vulnerable to attackers. All websites and apps should be protected with HTTPS. YouTube also pointed out that its website isn't at a full 100 percent encryption rate yet because "some devices do not fully support modern HTTPS." It's doing its best to support the widest number of smartphones, tablets, and browsers with the new security protocol, but admitted that down the line, to ensure the safety of all its users, it plans to "gradually phase out insecure

Tesla and Google Face Regulator Scrutiny After Self-Driving Cars Crash

Google's self-driving car project has appointed its first general counsel after a number of crashes involving the company's vehicles caught the attention of regulators (via Reuters). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it was collecting information after a minor incident in March when a Google self-driving car struck a municipal bus in California. On that occasion, it did not open a formal probe. Tesla however is feeling more intense pressure after one of its own cars was implicated in a fatal road accident recently. The NHTSA has opened a formal investigation into the May 7 death of a Tesla Motors Model S driver in Florida who was operating in "Autopilot" mode when his car crashed into a semi-trailer. Tesla's Autopilot system uses cameras and radar, but not lidar – a special sensor that uses laser to more accurately identify environmental obstacles. The company said its system would have had trouble distinguishing a white semi-trailer positioned across a road against a bright sky. Reuters reports that the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is also looking into whether Tesla breached securities laws by not telling investors about the fatal May 7 Autopilot crash. The SEC investigation aims to determine whether the accident should have been labeled a "material event" by Tesla, or one that investors are likely to consider important, when the company sold $2 billion in stock on May 18. In a blog post written in response to a Fortune article on the subject, Tesla explained that all it knew when it notified the

First Renders of Upcoming Google Smartwatches Emerge Online

Last week, we reported that Google is said to be working on its own branded pair of smartwatches, in a break from its traditional reliance on third-party manufacturers to come up with the hardware for its Android Wear OS. Given the continuing interest in rival smartwatches of the round-faced variety, some readers may be interested in the latest renders showing what Google's upcoming pair of wearables could look like. The image above published by Android Police, the site of the original leak, is described as an accurate "recreated image" of primary source material, used to preserve the anonymity of the source. The site also warns that the devices are still under development and therefore may ultimately differ from the design shown. With those caveats in mind, the larger watch render on the left is based on the 43.5mm "Angelfish", which is said to feature a heart-rate monitor, GPS, and LTE cellular connectivity for standalone use. The watch has three buttons, where third-party Android Wear devices typically have one, suggesting possible Google Assistant integration with contextual alerts. According to the report, the Angelfish will not be compatible with Android Wear Mode watch bands. The smaller 42mm device, codenamed "Swordfish", offers just the one crown button and is thought to lack the HRM, GPS and LTE smarts of the larger watch, but will be compatible with Android Wear Mode watch bands. The report states that Google avoided Motorola's flat-tyre design issue by adding a thick bezel between the display and ring, making the screen much smaller. Both displays

Concerns Arise Over Pokémon Go Granting Full Access to Players' Google Accounts [Update: Fix Incoming]

Pokémon Go is experiencing a momentous launch week, with an estimated 7.5 million downloads and nearly as many daily active Android users as Twitter in the United States. The rollout has not been entirely smooth, however, as the game has indirectly been at the center of crimes, robberies, and even car accidents. Pokémon Go has full access to your Google account (Image: Ars Technica) Now, an even bigger potential concern has arisen, as systems architect Adam Reeve has discovered that Pokémon Go grants full access to a user's Google account linked during the iOS sign-up process. Players can alternatively link a Pokemon.com account, but the website is currently experiencing issues for many users. When granted full account access, Pokémon Go developer Niantic is theoretically capable of viewing and modifying nearly all information stored in your Google account, including your Gmail messages, Google Drive documents, Google Maps navigation history, search history, and personal photos stored on Google Photos.Now, I obviously don't think Niantic are planning some global personal information heist. This is probably just the result of epic carelessness. But I don’t know anything about Niantic’s security policies. I don't know how well they will guard this awesome new power they’ve granted themselves, and frankly I don't trust them at all. I've revoked their access to my account, and deleted the app. I really wish I could play, it looks like great fun, but there's no way it's worth the risk.It remains unclear what information, if any, Niantic is actually collecting from

Google Said to be Readying Pair of Own-Branded Smartwatches

One week after news emerged that Google is working on its own smartphone hardware to compete with the likes of Apple's iPhone, a separate report this week claims the company is also set to enter the wearable market with a pair of Google-branded smartwatches. As with its Android mobile operations, the company has traditionally focused on developing its Android Wear OS while relying on third-party manufacturers to come up with the hardware. Motorola Moto 360 watches running Android Wear However, on Wednesday Android Police cited "reliable" sources with knowledge of Google's wearable hardware project, which is said to involve two smartwatches codenamed "Angelfish" and "Swordfish", both with circular displays. The Angelfish model will reportedly bear similarities to the Motorola Moto 360, with a design that features visible lugs and a housing that curves at the point where the wristband meets the device's body. A 43.5mm diameter accommodates a larger battery and LTE chip that will let the watch connect to cellular networks. A large circular button at the center of the watch's right side and a pair of smaller circular buttons above and below it will provide physical interaction. While there's no information on what functions the buttons offer, the device is said to feature GPS and a heart-rate monitor, which in addition to LTE capabilities, will make it a true standalone device. The second, smaller Swordfish model is said to resemble a Pebble Time Round watch, sans the large screen bezel, offering a more rounded look. A single button at the center of its right

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]