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Google Photos and Duo App Updates Coming For Users in Low Connectivity Areas

Google announced a couple of notable updates for its Duo and Photos apps yesterday at the company's São Paulo event, where it pitched the features as ideal solutions for users in Brazil who live in low connectivity areas. Google Photos received two new features to make photo backup and sharing easier when using the app in locations with poor network coverage. Photos now backs up images in a lightweight preview quality that Google says "still looks great on a smartphone" and can be easily shared over poor connections. When a good Wi-Fi connection does become available, the backed up photos are automatically replaced with high quality versions. We’re also making it easier to share many photos at once even on low connectivity. Never mind if you're at the beach or hiking in the mountains, with Google Photos you can now share pictures quickly even with a spotty connection by sending first in low resolution so friends and family can view them right away. They'll later update in higher resolution when connectivity permits.Video calling app Duo gained an audio-only calling feature that users can switch to when an internet connection is poor. The features for both apps are available in Brazil from today, and Google says it will be rolling them out to users around the world in the coming days. Yesterday, Google also announced a new feature for Maps that lets users share their real-time locations with friends and

Google 'Motion Stills' Update Lets Users Customize Default Frame of Live Photos

Last year Google launched an app called Motion Stills that fixed a lot of issues that users had -- and still have -- with Apple's new Live Photos feature introduced in the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. With the new update, Motion Stills now lets users customize the displayed frame that appears automatically in the camera roll of the iOS Photos app. The intent is to display more clearly what the Live Photo image is composed of, particularly when the frame displaying the content is taken from a blurry or unclear segment of the Live Photo. Now, users can cycle through any frame from a Live Photo in Motion Stills, choose a new image, and export it back out to the iOS Photos app with the new frame. This exporting process keeps the Live Photo in Apple's custom 3D touch looping format and not the GIF format of Motion Stills. As The Verge pointed out, there is a catch in the basic function of Live Photos that could result in a customized frame appearing lower-resolution in the Photos app. There is a catch. For space reasons, Live Photos only save the primary frame in full 12-megapixel clarity, with the other frames handled as lower-resolution video; choosing one of these frames will therefore result in a photo with less detail than the original. But since the vast majority of Live Photo viewing probably happens on phones, this may not be a major issue for you.Other than the new frame feature, Motion Stills as a whole lets users turn Live Photos into easily shareable GIFs. The app also uses Google's video stabilization technology to smooth out jittery images and freeze

Chrome 57 Reduces Desktop Power Consumption By Throttling Background Tabs

Version 57 of the desktop Chrome web browser includes a new CPU throttling feature that Google says will lead to 25 percent fewer busy background tabs and help reduce overall power consumption. Charges that Chrome is a battery hog have long dogged Google's browser, leading the company to make efficient power usage a key pillar in its long-term development strategy for the software. Throttling background tabs by limiting Javascript timers is the latest attempt by Google to improve the browser's reputation. Javascript timers are often used by news sites and social media networks to update web page content in tabs, which uses up valuable CPU cycles. From version 57 of the browser, Chrome will delay timers in individual background tabs if their power usage oversteps the mark. Tabs that play audio or use real-time connections won't be affected, however. Chrome has focused on improving the user experience by throttling tab performance for many years. Like many browsers, Chrome has limited timers in the background to only run once per second. Via the new throttling policy, Chrome 57 will delay timers to limit average CPU load to 1% of a core if an application uses too much CPU in background. Tabs playing audio or maintaining real-time connections like WebSockets or WebRTC won’t be affected. According to Google, the new throttling mechanism leads to fewer busy background tabs, which typically consume a third of Chrome's power usage on desktop computers. In the long term, Google aims to fully suspend timers in background tabs and instead rely on new APIs to do the work

Chrome for iOS Gains New 'Read Later' Feature

Google today updated its Chrome browser for iOS devices to version 57, adding a new "Read Later" function for saving articles to a Reading List so they can be viewed at a later time even when an internet connection is unavailable. The Chrome Read Later function is similar to the "Reading List" feature that's available in the Safari web browser for Macs and iOS devices. Yes, you can take it with you! If you find an interesting article that you want to read later, tap the Share icon and then Read Later to add the page to your Reading List. Articles on your Reading List are saved on your device so you can read them wherever you are, even when you aren't connected to the web.Read Later can be accessed by choosing the Share icon when reading a webpage on an iOS device using the Chrome browser. A "Read Later" Chrome icon is displayed, and when tapped, the article is added to the Reading List. The Reading List interface organizes articles based on what's unread and what's already been read, with an Edit tool available for article deletion and management. Chrome for iOS, with the new Read Later feature, can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Apple Joins Group of Companies Supporting Google in Foreign Email Privacy Case

Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Cisco have filed an amicus brief supporting Google in an ongoing case dealing with security and privacy, topics that Apple has been known to advocate in the past (via Business Insider). Most recently, Google's case has led to a court in Pennsylvania requesting the company to comply to an FBI warrant asking for emails residing on foreign servers. Although it's unclear what resides within the emails in question, in a report last month (via The Register) it was said that a Pennsylvania district court submitted two domestic search warrants -- issued under the Stored Communications Act -- targeted at the suspects in the case and their emails stored overseas. Google was given two orders previously, which it refused to comply with, before the judge in the case ruled that as an American corporation it must abide by the rulings of an American court, no matter where the data in question is being held. The coalition of companies supporting Google now argue that the scope of the SCA doesn't reach into foreign territories, and could lead to Google being forced to violate foreign data privacy laws. The amicus brief cites a case where Microsoft was asked to hand over emails stored on cloud servers in Ireland. Microsoft eventually won that case when it argued that the SCA does not cover data stored on servers in foreign countries and that the Act itself is "a statute enacted when the internet was still in its infancy" (it dates back to 1986) and subsequently should not be the touchstone of modern, technology-driven privacy cases. The U.S.

Google's New iOS App 'Uptime' Lets Users Watch YouTube Videos Together

Google has created a new app called "Uptime" [Direct Link] that allows users to watch YouTube videos in real time along with their friends (via The Verge). The iOS-only app is available in the United States and was created through Google's internal incubator program known as Area 120, which continues the company's famous workplace perk that encourages employees to take 20 percent of their week to focus on independent side projects. With Uptime, the company has added live-watching features -- similar to apps like Periscope -- on top of video watching. When friends join in on the same video, they can comment, react, add stickers, and more. When users start a video, their avatar will move along a progress bar to note where they are in it, and they'll be able to see their friends' progress in the same way. Uptime is a place to share and watch videos together with friends no matter where they are. Easily share your favorite YouTube video and bring friends together to watch, chat, and have fun in real time. The app will also act as a sort of social hub for YouTube, with users able to follow one another to see their watch history, and share clips from YouTube without leaving the app. Given Uptime's nascence, its makers at Google are encouraging users to provide feedback through email and on the app's official twitter account so that any problems can be addressed in future updates. Users who are interested and download Uptime on the iOS App Store [Direct Link] can gain access by using the invite code

Google Home Speaker Criticized For Spreading Fake News

Google's search algorithms came under renewed fire on Sunday after the BBC highlighted examples in which the company's Google Home smart speaker promotes "fake news" and conspiracy theories through its virtual assistant. BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones tweeted a video yesterday that appears to show the smart device responding to the question "Is Obama planning a coup?" with the reply: "Obama may in fact be planning a Communist coup d'etat at the end of his term in 2016." In another example, Search Editor Land editor Danny Sullivan asked his Google Home "Are Republicans fascists?", to which it replied: "Yes. Republicans equals Nazis." As pointed out by Business Insider, the fault lies in Google's Featured Snippets feature, which corrals data from the web to provide the user with a supposedly definitive answer to a query typed into the Google search bar. A version of the feature powers Google Assistant, the company's voice-activated virtual assistant, which is built into the Google Home smart speaker and some smartphones. The algorithms Google uses to verify online sources of information appear to be at fault, but the issue is arguably worse on smart devices because the answers they provide are plucked from the web without context since users are not actively viewing the source. A Google spokesperson told Business Insider in a statement that "Featured Snippets in Search provide an automatic and algorithmic match to a given search query, and the content comes from third-party sites. Unfortunately, there are instances when we feature a site with

Google Unveils New 'YouTube TV' Streaming Service for $35 per Month

YouTube today officially announced its new streaming television service, YouTube TV, reports Recode. Priced at $35 per month, YouTube TV features access to ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and approximately 30 major cable channels, with television content available alongside YouTube's own video content. Separate from YouTube Red, the new TV service will be available as a standalone app that's launching later this year. While it will be available on laptops and TVs through Chromecast, YouTube TV is said to be focused on a "mobile first" experience, with YouTube expecting most users to watch on smartphones and tablets. At launch, available channels will be limited to cable networks owned by companies that also own broadcast networks, but that could change in the future.One thing that distinguishes YouTube TV from its competitors is that while it will feature cable networks owned by companies that also own broadcast networks -- so it will offer both ESPN and ABC, both owned by Disney -- it doesn't feature any networks owned by programmers that operate exclusively on pay TV, like Viacom, AMC or Time Warner.YouTube TV features include cloud DVR options with unlimited storage space, an AI-powered recommendation system, and service that scales reliably for no launch-time outages. At $35 per month, YouTube TV is at the price point Apple hoped to achieve when it was working on its own now-shelved television streaming service. It's also a price point that's competitive with offerings like DirecTV Now, Sling TV, and PlayStation Vue. YouTube has been working on a streaming television

Google Responds to Reports of Unexpected Account Sign-Outs

Google has responded to multiple reports of users being unexpectedly logged out of their Google accounts, in order to assuage fears that the logouts were security related. The unexpected sign-outs began on Thursday night and continued through Friday, affecting multiple services including Gmail, Chromecast, YouTube, and Google Play. During routine maintenance, a number of users were signed-out from their Google accounts. This may have resulted in you being signed out of your account or seeing a notification about "A change in your Google account" or "Account Action Required". We hear your concerns that this appeared to potentially be phishing or another type of security issue. We can assure you that the security of your account was never in danger as a result of this issue.Google said the issue with its Google Accounts engine also caused some Google Wifi and OnHub devices to automatically revert to factory settings. "Unfortunately, these devices need to be set up again," said Google. "We'd like to share our sincerest apologies for the inconvenience." Instructions on re-setting the Wi-Fi devices can be found here. We know some of you had issues signing in today. Please try again now. Rest easy -- your account's security was not affected.— Google (@Google) February 24, 2017 The reports initially caused some concern among users, coming in just hours after it was revealed that content delivery network CloudFare had been informed by Google of a bug that leaked memory, which could potentially contain private information cached by search engines. Cloudflare worked

Gboard Update Brings Google Doodle, Voice Typing, iOS 10 Emoji, and Additional Language Support

Google has announced a significant update for Gboard, bringing new emoji, Google Doodles, voice typing, and additional language support to the iOS keyboard app. Gboard integrates the company's search capabilities into an iPhone or iPad's keyboard. Using the 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. The update means Gboard now supports all of the latest emoji from iOS 10. Additionally, Google has added subtle alerts about Google Doodles, which frequently animate the Google logo to honor holidays, anniversaries and notable people. Whenever a new Google Doodle goes live, the "G" button animates, prompting users to find out more about it. Elsewhere, today's update adds voice typing, which allows users to dictate messages directly to Gboard. To start a new text, users can now long-press the mic button on the space bar and talk. The update also brings 15 additional languages to Gboard, including Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Polish, Romanian, Swedish, Catalan, Hungarian, Malay, Russian, Latin American Spanish and Turkish. ">Gboard is a free download for iPhone and iPad available on the App Store. [Direct Link

Latest Chrome Canary Build Includes Support for MacBook Pro Touch Bar

The newest build (58.0.3020.0) of Chrome Canary, Google's experimental browser, includes support for the Touch Bar built into the 2016 MacBook Pro, indicating Touch Bar support will soon be added to the Chrome browser. On the Touch Bar, the current Chrome Canary build offers a search/URL bar, forward and back buttons, a refresh/stop option, a button for opening a new tab, and a button for adding a new bookmark. It's much a simpler implementation than Touch Bar support in Safari, which includes preview tabs for quickly switching between windows. There are also no controls available for video or music playback in the browser. Features are tested in Canary before being added release builds of the Google Chrome browser, so Touch Bar support is expected in Chrome 58, set to be released during the week of April 25th. Those who want to give Touch Bar support a try ahead of the release of Chrome 58 can download Chrome Canary from Google.

Amazon and Google Want to Turn Their Smart Home Speakers Into Telephone Replacements

Both Amazon and Google are working on turning their popular AI-based speaker products into replacements for a home telephone, reports The Wall Street Journal. The Amazon Echo and/or the Google Home could be used to make and receive phone calls, with the two companies planning to add the updated functionality as soon as this year. Smart home products like the Amazon Echo have become a staple in the lives of many people and the ability to make phone calls directly from the device would be a valuable addition. Google and Amazon are said to be working to overcome concerns about privacy, telecom regulations, and emergency services, plus the "inherent awkwardness" of making phone conversations via a speaker. The two companies are worried consumers won't want to speak on a device that is able to record conversations. Both the Echo and the Home continuously record audio to enable AI responses. One source that spoke to The Wall Street Journal said that Amazon would only collect metadata from phone calls rather than conversations themselves, and while it's unclear what Google would retain, a Home-based call service would likely resemble Google Voice, which does not record phone calls.Amazon is considering multiple options for how the phone feature could work, the people said. The Echo could get its own phone number. Call forwarding could enable calls to that number to be answered remotely on a cellphone, and vice versa. Another option is to sync a user's existing phone number and contacts with the Echo. Incoming calls would ring on the user's cellphone. Amazon and

Google Makes Chrome Browser for iOS Open Source

Google today announced that the code for Chrome for iOS is being added to its Chromium project and will be available through the company's open-source repository going forward. According to Google, Chrome for iOS was previously kept separate from the rest of the Chromium project because of the "additional complexity" required for the platform, such as the need for the browser to be built using the WebKit rendering engine. Google says the company's engineers have spent "a lot of time" over the last few years tweaking the Chrome for iOS code needed to upstream into Chromium, a process that was recently completed.Today, that upstreaming is complete, and developers can compile the iOS version of Chromium like they can for other versions of Chromium. Development speed is also faster now that all of the tests for Chrome for iOS are available to the entire Chromium community and automatically run any time that code is checked in.Designed as an alternative to Safari, Chrome for iOS is available for free to all users from the iOS App Store. [Direct Link] Chrome users won't notice any obvious changes to the browser, but the shift to open source will make it easier for Google to release new versions of Chrome for

Google Arts & Culture iOS App Showcases Chinese New Year Exhibition 'Arts of the New Moon'

Today marks the beginning of the Chinese Lunar New Year, and to celebrate the Year of the Rooster, Google has teamed up with 12 museums from Beijing to Washington to create a new online exhibition that can be visited through the Google Arts & Culture iOS app. Across Asia and around the world, families are coming together, houses and neighborhoods are being dressed up in red and traditional lanterns are being hung. If you're still wondering about what the fireworks are all about, Google Arts & Culture is here to help you learn more about this centuries-old tradition. Titled 'Arts of the New Moon', the exhibition features rich video and interactive graphics to showcase a range of arts and crafts connected to the ancient tradition, taking in ancient calligraphy, contemporary painting, performing arts, woodblock prints, and more. The app includes Google Cardboard-compatible VR portals to explore iconic places, like the Ge Garden in Yangzhou and the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum in Japan. Elsewhere, users can follow the zodiac animals across 1,000 years of art history, and kids can play New Year-themed games starring the Red Rooster. Also to be found are interesting facts about the Lunar New Year, with a special lesson on how to give and accept a traditional red envelope. The Google Arts & Culture app is a free download for iPhone and iPad available on the App Store. [Direct Link]

Google's Waymo Unveils Fleet of Self-Driving Chrysler Pacifica Minivans

Google spin-off Waymo unveiled its fleet of 100 self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans in a preview event ahead of the North American International Auto Show on Sunday (via USA Today). John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo, told attendees at the Detroit event that the fleet packs an array of new sensors that were all developed in-house, including an enhanced vision system, improved radar and laser-based lidar. "We're serious about creating fully self-driving cars that can help millions of people, and to do that we have to oversee both the self-driving software and the self-driving hardware," said Krafcik.The autonomous vehicles are the result of a partnership between Google and Fiat Chrysler that was agreed last spring, and represent the first time Google has chosen to build self-driving technology itself, rather than turn to third-party manufacturers. As a result, Waymo said the company had been able to cut costs by 90 percent. But apart from cutting costs, Krafcik told attendees that building the hardware in-house had allowed the company to develop better technology, such as an improved rooftop radar system, or Lidar, that allows the cars to read more information off the environment. "The detail we capture is so high that not only can we detect pedestrians all around us, but we can tell which direction they’re facing," said Krafcik. "This is incredibly important, as it helps us more accurately predict where someone will walk next." The hybrid vehicles will join the company's Lexus SUVs and Firefly vehicles on public roads in California and Arizona later this month to

Facebook and Google Dominate 'Top Smartphone Apps of 2016' List, While Apple Music Ranks 9th

A new trend study published by Nielsen this week looks into the top smartphone apps of 2016, as well as the operating systems that the apps were downloaded on. This year within the United States, Facebook won the top spot with more than 146 million average unique users each month. The social network company also dominated the second spot with Facebook Messenger at 129 million unique users per month. Following Facebook's winning of the top spots, Google holds most of the remaining spots with YouTube (113 million), Google Maps (105 million), Google Search (103 million), Google Play (99 million), and Gmail (88 million). Another Facebook-owned app in the 8th spot, Instagram (74 million), bookends the Google apps. For Apple, the only app that appears on Nielsen's chart is Apple Music, with just over 68 million unique users each month, a growth of 20 percent from 2015. Earlier in December, it was reported that Apple's music streaming service had officially surpassed the 20 million subscriber mark. Amazon's popular shopping app rounds out the list in the 10th spot with 65 million monthly users. In the third quarter of 2016, the apps were opened on average 53 percent of the time on an Android operating system and 45 percent on iOS, according to Nielsen's data of around 9,000 panelists. Windows Phone and BlackBerry accounted for a minimal portion of the statistics at 2 percent and 1 percent,

Google Brings Roving Text Effects to Apple's Live Photos in 'Motion Stills' App Update

Google has released an update to its Motion Stills app that lets users create moving text effects for inclusion in their videos. Motion Stills is designed to create unique GIFs from Live Photo images captured with the iPhone 7, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE. The app was released earlier this year and its main features were subsequently integrated into Google Photos for iOS. The update means that users can add motion-tracked text overlays to their high-resolution videos and fun gifs, as described and demonstrated in the company's research blog post. We've added motion text so you can create moving text effects, similar to what you might see in movies and TV shows, directly on your phone. With Motion Text, you can easily position text anywhere over your video to get the exact result you want. It only takes a second to initialize while you type, and a tracks at 1000 FPS throughout the whole Live Photo, so the process feels instantaneous.The update also brings Google's RAISR machine learning technology to the app to create super-resolution detail in images, adds 3D Touch support to the interface, and introduces fully automatic cinemagraphs – looping moving images in which the foreground subject moves while the background remains static. Google's updated ">Motion Stills app for iPhone and iPad can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct link]

iPhone 7 Tops Google's 2016 'Year in Search' Tech List, Loses to Pokémon Go in Overall Searches

Google has listed its annual "Year in Search" results, highlighting the most popular searches performed by people throughout 2016. As is usually the case, Apple-related search inquiries topped a few of the charts over the last twelve months, with Apple winning four total spots in the Consumer Tech category: the iPhone 7 topped the list ahead of the Freedom 251, iPhone SE, iPhone 6s, Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy S7, iPhone 7 Plus, Galaxy Note7, Nintendo Switch, and Samsung J7. Last December, the iPhone 6s ranked #1 in the same category, with the Apple Watch coming in at a high point at #3. Apple's wearable was nowhere to be seen in the top Google tech searches in 2016, despite Apple launching the new Series 1 and Series 2 versions of the device. In the Overall searches category, Pokémon Go came in first place in 2016 thanks to the height of its popularity and player base earlier in the summer, and the game's continued updates and additions throughout the fall. iPhone 7 ranked second behind Pokémon Go, and was the only Apple-related item to be listed in the section this year. Other popular search terms in 2016 were for Deadpool, the Olympics, Slither.io, Prince, David Bowie, and more. Check out the rest of Google's Year in Search rankings here to discover the most popularly searched movies, news, tv shows, musicians, and more this past

Google Scales Back Self-Driving Car Ambitions

Google is reported to have shelved plans to develop its own self-driving vehicle in favor of nurturing partnerships with existing car makers to continue its work in the automotive space. According to The Information, the company's autonomous car unit, known internally as Chauffeur, is working with established car companies to develop vehicles that will include self-driving features, while ditching earlier plans to remove the steering wheel and pedal controls. The news follows on from reports back in May that Google is actively working with Fiat Chrysler on automotive projects. Despite the shift in gears for its car project, sources suggest Google still has plans to bring an autonomous taxi service to U.S. roads before the end of 2017. Its autonomous vehicles have already clocked over two million miles of tests on public roads. Recent reports regarding Apple's ambitions in the autonomous vehicle space appear to have taken a similar hard turn away from developing an own-branded electric car. The Cupertino company is said to have shelved its original automotive program "for now" in favor of building a self-driving software platform, possibly in partnership with existing car makers. In a letter earlier this month to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Apple admitted to its interest in "machine learning and automation" as it pertains to transportation, and confirmed its desire to help define rules for the self-driving car industry in the

Gmail for iOS Updated With New Browser Preference, Multiple Message and Compose Options

Google has issued an update to its recently redesigned Gmail app for iOS that brings a few notable changes to email composition and management on mobile devices. In version 5.0.7, an option in the Settings panel lets users select their favorite browser (Safari or Chrome) for opening links in emails. Users are now also able to select multiple messages in their inbox by tapping on the sender's profile image or icon next to the email, while messages can be marked as read or unread by selecting the email and tapping the 'open/closed envelope' icon in the top toolbar. In addition, it's now possible to edit quoted content when replying to a message, and to copy and paste rich text content in a message. Gmail is a free download on the App Store for iPhone and iPad. [Direct Link]