HTC’s flagship Android phones haven’t always had great cameras, but the company has turned that around these past few years, Currently, three HTC-build phones are sitting at the top of DxOMark’s mobile camera leader board – with the HTC U11 … Read More




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The Samsung Chromebook Plus has been around for a while, having been announced at CES and released shortly after. The higher-end, professional-aimed Samsung Chromebook Pro, which was delayed from the original launch window, is finally coming to stores May 28.

The Chromebook Pro is the best Chromebook Samsung has ever built, and it comes with a 360-degree hinge, a 12.3″ 2400×1600 touchscreen display, an included pen and Google Play Store apps, which will be on the stable channel rather than the beta channel most Chromebooks are currently using apps on.

Andrew reviewed a pre-production Chromebook Pro in the spring while Google Play apps were in beta, and it will be interesting to see how things have changed since that early look. The Samsung Chromebook Pro will be available at Best Buy, Amazon, Samsung’s website, and the Shop Samsung app.




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Android Go isn’t a big deal, and that makes it an incredibly powerful and meaningful change for Android users everywhere.

You may know this well-known idiom: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Such a phrase can be applied to many circumstances, but it also works in the context of Google’s salvo into the world of unifying the experience of budget smartphones, Android One.

One is the loneliest number

Android One was unveiled in 2014 as a way for hardware manufacturers to spend less time building custom software, and assigning expensive engineers to update that software, by putting the onus on Google to keep those phones updated. But Android One floundered soon after its launch, since the Indian companies Google partnered with on the project didn’t put nearly as much marketing muscle behind those phones as the ones they could profitably customize to their hearts’ content.

By the time Google fixed Android One’s biggest problems, its partners were recreating its best features for less money.

And while Google rectified the problem a year later with the second generation of Android One devices, by that time the likes of Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo and Lenovo were mimicking the positive aspects of Google’s enterprise while simultaneously undercutting them on the hardware, leaving Android One to flounder. It had some success in countries like Turkey, Japan, Indonesia and Portugal, but by the end of 2016 it was clear Google’s partners were on the verge of abandoning their low-cost Android One strategy. Google learned that, especially in the low-end smartphone space, hardware vendors want Android, not Google’s Android, spurned by the very companies it wooed just a couple years earlier.

Along comes Go

Now we’re hearing about Android Go, and how it’s also going to revolutionize the Android experience for people who are just about to buy their first smartphone, or have limited budgets in developing regions where their phone is perhaps their only computer. And while we’ve heard this before, Google’s latest salvo for “the next billion” actually makes a lot of sense. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Android O and beyond will be optimized for devices with 1GB of RAM and under. These days, that’s a number that often gets derided as too little, especially for a memory-hungry OS like Android, but the foundations have been in place since Project Svelte debuted back in 2012 with Jelly Bean. Google is taking things even further by separating parts of the operating system that can be pared down. At this point, Android — Google’s Android — is as lean as it’s ever been, and with advancements in battery optimization and app caching, Android O should run well on almost any piece of hardware.
  • Google is optimizing its own apps — YouTube, Gboard, Chrome — to use as little mobile data as possible. Chrome will use its Data Saver feature by default. YouTube will preview videos before using expensive mobile bandwidth. And Gboard, Google’s excellent virtual keyboard, has been updated to support multiple languages and transliteration.
  • When a device ships with Android Go, Google Play will automatically populate apps that have been “lightened” — YouTube Go, Facebook Lite — to use less data. Apps installed on the phone will also remain in a compressed state and the OS won’t continually ask for “updates,” potentially saving battery life. That doesn’t mean that the Play Store will be limited, though: while Google will highlight lightweight apps on the Play Store’s home page, the entire app catalog will be available to download.

All of these together will allow Google to make any phone, not just those from manufacturers it partners with, to work really well on limited memory without necessarily forcing those vendors to use a “stock” version of Android that may not allow for its well-regarded customizations. Yes, in certain countries, customized versions of Android are preferred to what we know as vanilla Android.

The next billion

This is a platitude that we hear all the time: there are seven and a half billion people in the world, and with two billion active Android devices, there are hundreds of millions of others in countries like India, Indonesia, Brazil, Turkey, Philippines and Cambodia, to name a few, that, frankly, don’t have good experiences when they spend $50 to $100 on an Android device.

Android Go is about more than controlling software updates. It’s about making Android leaner and more efficient for everyone.

But Android Go isn’t about Google controlling updates, nor is it about offering a separate version of Android that needs to be maintained and continually optimized year over year. As we’ve learned since Android debuted, Google has a tendency to debut and support features for a brief time only to abandon them completely for something shinier. To put Android Go in a position to succeed, Google made the inspired decision to merely integrate it into its general Android plan. It is so simple, so uninteresting that it has a much better chance of success.

That’s because, by default, when a company builds a phone with 1GB of RAM or less, Android Go will just be the default state; the lighter configuration of Google’s first party apps will be installed, and the version of the Google Play Store users see will automatically highlight low-bandwidth apps.

But the end result will be an Android experience that will seamlessly cause fewer performance hiccups, and fewer accidental data cap overages. It may also improve the reputation of low-cost devices since, even though they are getting better over the years, there is still a stigma around using a phone with low memory.

For the rest

Android O will integrate a number of memory and battery usage improvements into its core, available to phones with 1GB and 6GB of RAM alike. That’s the beauty of the enterprise — it just works.

If OnePlus or Samsung can’t make Android smooth with 4GB of 6GB of RAM, it’s clear that there’s more work to be done.

But we’ve heard this before, and RAM usage continues to dog Android’s reputation. Companies like OnePlus and Samsung have been accused of poor memory management, despite outfitting their flagships with plenty of memory. From errant apps to poor governor management, Google can only do so much to make Android a smooth and problem-free experience. Once the code is in the hands of external vendors, all bets are off.

So once again, Google is just trying to make things a little bit better for everyone. Android is already pretty good at scaling, but it could always be better. Usually when we talk about scaling, though, we talk about it scaling up — for better screens, faster CPUs and more powerful GPUs — not down. In 2017, when it’s pretty easy to nab a great phone for $300, it makes sense that Google is optimizing the experience for the increasingly important $100 phone so that one day, when phones are $10, we’ll look back on this move and consider it a turning point.




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Take a photo tour with us through Google’s spectacular, outdoor developer conference.

Google I/O isn’t all developer talks and coding sessions. Well, the majority of it certainly is, but it’s also a festival speckled with things to see and photograph-worthy shrubbery.

The conference takes place at an outdoor venue in the heart of the Silicon Valley, where it’s cool in the mornings and blazing hot in the afternoon. But this year, Google moved most of what’s worth seeing inside into air conditioned tents. The result makes it a tiny bit harder to find some of the technologies on display, but the pay off is a cooled room where you can easily relax while bonding over what’s new with Google.

Welcome to Google I/O 2017.

The Shoreline Amphitheater, where Google I/O is now held annually, is next-door to Google headquarters and a wildlife reserve. Typically just barren festival grounds, this year Google seems to have added more common areas for people to sit and congregate.

Google is offering a fun scavenger hunt around the I/O fairgrounds. Tap your phone to an NFC terminal four times throughout the week and you can take home one of these Android Pay figurines.

There are two tents devoted just to Android Experiments. The one on the right is called Home Screen Arcade, which lets you play a game of Space Invaders (left) on your Home screen. The one on the right is called Giorgio Cam, and it lets you make a melody by snapping different pictures. It uses Machine Learning to figure out what the object it and then turns those labels into lyrics of a song.

Feel like sending a postcard? You can from Google I/O! Grab one of these and drop it in the mailbox to send to a friend.

There are plenty of areas to sit and relax and grab a beverage — water, Coke, or other — under the shade of a tree or an awning in between sessions or just to escape the oppressive mid-afternoon sun. In case you didn’t realize, it’s very hot in Mountain View.

And then when you’re about to go back to work, you can grab a beverage at the Google Assistant-powered Mocktail kiosk, which will whip up a flavorful fruit drink for you.

There are more photos to come! We’ll be updating this throughout the week.




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Android O and 2 Billion users is big news, but the real story from I/O 2017 is how everything will become a vessel for Google Assistant and the artificial intelligence that powers it.

Google Assistant looks and feels like the natural successor to Google Now. In a way it is, but it’s also so much more. At Google I/O 2017 we saw that Google Assistant is it’s own platform, and one that might be bigger than anything else Google has built.

The front end for Assistant can be in your phone, or your TV or and appliance on your coffee table or in a cardboard box from an electronic hobbyist magazine. While that might be the way to interact with Assistant, the service itself lives and breathes in the cloud running on Google’s crazy new TensorFlow-powered Google Cloud TPUs.

Photo courtesy Google

Assistant first came to our phones inside the Allo app. We had seen the demo ot Google I/O 2016, but at first it was a little disappointing. That’s changed, and here we are a year later with a very smart Assistant that can run anywhere with an internet connection and a Python (development language) interpreter. It’s also branched out into Google Lens, Google Photos, Google Job Search and Tango and Google Play Protect and just about anywhere that a computer’s special blend of logic can work out how, why or where. All of this is tied together into an AI, and it’s Google’s newest platform.

It also has the chance to be Google’s most important and biggest platform, and eventually encompass and devour everything else the company has to offer. We already heard how Google’s neural network was programmed so that it could build it’s own and better neural network, so the functions and features are all there. Everything Google does could benefit from some smarter machinery, and the machinery is ready. Soon we’ll have assistant in our Gmail.

Google literally announced the end of the world. Neural nets that build better neural nets. #IO17 pic.twitter.com/R4V0A85FM1

— Jerry @ I/O 🛴 (@gbhil) May 17, 2017

The most visual, and therefore most exciting, news is in Google Lens. It’s definitely the sleeper hit from I/O 2017, and something that will continue to develop until it becomes part of the everyday experience. The service that can use the power of the cloud to log you onto a Wi-Fi network or tell you about the flower that you’re seeing. We’re looking forwards to seeing Google Lens, but we’re also looking forwards to what Google Lens learns for the next thing.

And that’s what we really saw at I/O 17; the future. Google I/O has slowly moved away from announcements of shiny things and become more about what those things can do, and how it makes a difference. The things we buy that use it will come and go, but what we saw at Google I/O is the start of what’s next.




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