Tag Archives: Android

Instant Apps now on 500 million Android devices

Instant Apps are a way for developers to provide a lightweight, modularized portion of their full app experience when a user opens specific search results. The user has to enable Instant Apps in the Settings menu before the feature will work, however. Announced at Google I/O 2016, the feature was made available to all developers after this year’s I/O.

Google has announced the feature is now available to 500 million users, so developers should feel encouraged to start building for the feature. Instant Apps are available for any user running Android 6.0 and later, or 45.8% of all Android users. While that’s not a majority, that’s still a very large number of users and will continue to grow in the future.

Google also shared that application developers are already seeing a return on their work for Instant Apps. Vimeo increased session duration by 130% following the integration of Instant Apps, while the real estate purchasing application dotloop saw a 62% increase in users using its service to sign documents after integrating Instant Apps into its platform.


Google also provides a list of best practices for developers interested in integrating Instant Apps into their service.

Have you stumbled across an Instant App you like yet? Let us know down below!



China Yikatong launched an app for ‘most’ Android devices but not Apple

Apple continues to be locked out of China’s massive mobile payments space. The latest reminder came this week when Beijing’s transportation system opened up to smartphone payments… via an Android app.

Already Tencent’s WeChat Pay and Alibaba’s Alipay services dominate China’s mobile payment space, which is estimated to have processed $3 trillion last year, but now Apple has missed out being part of what is sure to be a very convenient usage case.

The Financial Times reports that Beijing’s public transport payments company Yikatong launched an app for ‘most’ Android devices that allows commutes to ditch their physical card and pay fares via their phone.

Apple isn’t included most likely because its operating system doesn’t support third party payments like Yikatong, instead favoring its own Apple Pay. But it is also worth noting that iOS accounts for just 16 percent of all smartphones in China, according to data from Kantar as of March. Though the figure in urban areas is likely to skew in Apple’s favor, it doesn’t dominate which may be another factor.


It’s unclear whether potential iPhone owners would go to the lengths of buying an Android device just to use the transportation app, but it’s another piece of anecdotal evidence that shows the difficulty Apple is up against in China, where revenue was down 10 percent year-on-year in its most recent quarter of business.

Apple recently removed the popular tip feature from chat app WeChat, a move that some believe might tempt its users to move over to Android where it continues to exist. While WeChat itself, far and away the most popular Chinese app, has ‘leveled the playing field’ in some ways by standardizing parts of the mobile experience for users whether they are on iOS or Android, the latter of which is often (far) cheaper.

That said, analysts are optimistic that the forthcoming next iPhone — which has been heavily linked with a range of new features — can sell well in China if Apple is able to differentiate it from previous models. Time will tell, but missing out on wide deployments like Chinese public transport remains a blow.


Beijing’s public transport system gets an app for paying fares — but Apple isn’t invited

Amazon reportedly working on proper Android ‘Ice’ smartphones with Google’s apps

Amazon might be taking another shot at building its own smartphones, according to a new report from NDTV’s Gadget 360. And unlike the company’s failed Fire Phone, the new smartphones — allegedly branded “Ice” — would have access to the full line of Google services and apps, including the Play Store.


The report notes that the Ice line would be targeted at emerging markets like India, instead of the more US-facing focus of the original Fire Phone. As such, the rumored specs for one of the Ice phones fall in line with that goal: a screen between 5.2 and 5.5 inches, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, and a Snapdragon 435 processor. Gadget 360 claims that this specific model would retail for roughly $93 at launch, although that price could change before launch.

Per Gadget 360’s source, the Ice phone doesn’t have Alexa support, but, like the price, details aren’t finalized which means software, too, could change in the future.

The original Fire Phone was a failure for a multitude of reasons, including a focus on gimmicky features, an expensive price tag, exclusivity to AT&T, and a bizarre operating system. It sold extremely poorly, even with Amazon slashing prices only weeks after launch. But perhaps the biggest failure was the dearth of apps by not using Google Mobile Services, in essence leaving customers with a confusingly skinned Android phone that didn’t really run any Android apps. It sounds like Amazon is taking a different approach with the Ice line, by embracing Google’s services and targeting a different slice of the smartphone market than the Apple-and-Samsung-dominated high-end segment.


If the Ice rumors are true, Amazon could have a big opportunity in emerging market places. Google has made no secret of its desire to put Android phones in the hands of “the next billion users” with initiatives like Android Go and Android One; an Amazon hardware push would certainly go a long way toward getting Google there, while also boosting Amazon’s own user base of its own products.



Netflix No Longer Available to Rooted, Unlocked Android Devices

The “unlocked” devices Netflix is refusing to support may refer to bootloader-unlocked devices rather than carrier-unlocked devices. Carrier unlocking refers to the practice of allowing a device purchased from one company to run on another company’s network, while bootloader unlocking allows a smartphone to run a completely different version of Android (or in some cases, an entirely different operating system).  Not all phone manufacturers lock their bootloader and some manufacturers that do lock their bootloaders don’t lock every single SKU they manufacture. It is unclear if the new Netflix app distinguishes between devices that were unlocked by the end user and devices that were purchased with an unlocked bootloader from their manufacturers. Thanks to reader Jeff Bowles for catching this possibility.

Original  Story Below:

For years, Android owners who wanted a greater range of freedom when using their devices have had the option to root them. The term refers to “root access,” which gives the end user control over options that the phone’s manufacturer had previously prevented them from accessing. Rooting can be used to update a device to a different or new OS, remove applications the OEM installed by default, or install special applications that require administrative access and cannot run on a non-rooted device.

The vast majority of Android users never bother with rooting their hardware. But it’s a useful way for power users to keep a device updated after the OEM has abandoned it, or to simply add features and capabilities that weren’t previously available. The majority of applications in the Google Play Store run on rooted or unrooted devices without any problems. Netflix, however, has decided to buck this trend with the latest version of its own app. The company has confirmed that devices that are not “Google-certified or have been altered” are no longer capable of accessing the mobile service. Disturbingly, this appears to apply to devices that are rooted or unlocked.

A Netflix spokesperson told Android Police the following:

With our latest 5.0 release, we now fully rely on the Widevine DRM provided by Google; therefore, many devices that are not Google-certified or have been altered will no longer work with our latest app and those users will no longer see the Netflix app in the Play Store.

Now, in theory, this has been done to make certain that Google’s Wildvine DRM technology isn’t bypassed by a rooted device. But Android Police reports that it’s also blocking devices that have simply been unlocked. There’s a significant difference between the two states. An unlocked device has simply been modified to allow it to be used with multiple carriers, as opposed to rooting, which gives the user much more control over the phone and could theoretically be used to facilitate piracy. Most phone manufacturers sell unlocked devices on the open market (without any kind of subsidy or discount arrangement) and OEMs often will unlock a device on request, provided it’s fully paid off.

But the Netflix application itself hasn’t been prevented from running. It’s the download and store listing that are blocked. Android Police notes that whether you can download the Netflix app seems linked to a device’s SafetyNet status, not whether it supports Google’s Wildvine DRM. SafetyNet is an API that checks whether the bootloader on a device is locked; AndroidPay is disabled on devices with unlocked bootloaders regardless of whether those devices are rooted or not.

SafetyNet and Wildvine are two distinct technologies, which makes the whole issue rather strange. Netflix is claiming it implemented this change due to Wildvine, but it’s not checking Wildvine status to determine whether to allow installation of Netflix. To get around this problem, if you install Netflix via a website like APKMirror, it still works normally on an unlocked, rooted device — at least for now.




Android Wear has made it trivially easy for fashion companies to ‘make’ tech products

March has been a particularly fecund time for new Android Wear watch announcements, though unlike previous years, the brands behind these devices are almost all from the fashion and luxury spheres of business. Tag Heuer, Montblanc, Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, Diesel, Emporio Armani, Michael Kors, and Movado are just some of the well known names announcing Wear 2.0 smartwatches. This wave of new products is symptomatic of a broader trend in the tech industry: one where a high degree of component and software integration has made it almost trivial to launch a new tech product, whether or not you’re actually a tech company.

Though a number of the newly unveiled watches haven’t been fully detailed and specced out yet, we already know the commonalities between them. They run the same Android Wear 2.0, embellished with a custom watchface or two. Inside, most are relying on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 2100 chip — excepting Tag Heuer’s partnership with Intel on the Connected Modular 45 — which integrates all the necessary wireless radios for a smartwatch. And they all have roughly the same battery size and physical dimensions.


I like to imagine there’s a debonair Google operative out there, visiting all the fashion brands and giving them the exact same pitch: take our software, nothing for you to do, take Qualcomm’s chip, no extra labor required, and use these reliable suppliers of memory chips and batteries. All you have to do is put a strap on it and it’s a smartwatch!

This standardization of software and hardware parts has made it possible for companies unfamiliar with the complexities of producing an integrated smart device to launch one anyway. It’s the smartwatch equivalent of a company like Adidas taking a standard quartz movement and building a three-striped watch around it. On the one hand, it feeds a consumer desire to have favorite brands covering everything we own, but on the other, it doesn’t really lead to any better watches or technology.


The crux of the problem with these internally identical Android Wear watches is that tech consumers demand substantive differences between cheap and expensive gadgets. How does Montblanc justify charging three times as much as LG for a watch that is functionally the same as LG’s? When Tag Heuer or any other famed watchmaker puts four-figure prices on its mechanical watches, there’s an implied promise that they’ll have an unmatched quality of workmanship and precision. But when those same companies outsource the brains to Google and the brawn to Qualcomm, what’s left for them to differentiate themselves with?



Google hands over $3m in bug bounties as payouts soar for new Android flaws

Google paid researchers over $3m last year for their contributions to its vulnerability rewards programs.

Payouts in 2016 take Google’s total payments under its bug bounty schemes to $9m since it started rewarding researchers in 2010. In 2015 it paid researchers $2m, which brought its total then to $6m.

It’s not uncommon for tech companies to run bug bounties these days, but while many rely on third-party platforms, Google has been responsible for verifying bugs for over six years now.

Occasionally, Google expands its program to cover new products, such as Android, and new devices such as OnHub and Nest. Facebook, Microsoft, and most recently Apple are also running their own bug bounties.

Last year was the first full year Android was covered by Google’s bug bounty, which earned researchers nearly $1m for finding and reporting issues to the Android security team. That figure is significantly more than the $200,000 it paid in 2015 after launching the Android rewards program that June.

Google’s acknowledgements to individuals who’ve helped improved Android security have grown in recent years as it has expanded efforts to secure the operating system.

The Android bug bounty launched just ahead of Google’s monthly Android security bulletins, which encourages handset makers to deliver patches regularly to devices and allows end-users to see what date their phones are patched to.

Google also paid nearly $1m to researchers who reported bugs in the longer-running Chrome vulnerability rewards program.


The company says its three rewards programs attracted over 350 researchers from 59 countries, while it issued over 1,000 individual rewards with the biggest single reward being $100,000. Additionally, $130,000 was donated to charities.

Google doesn’t say what its $100,000 payment went on, but last year it created a $100,000 standing offer for remotely hacking a Chromebook while it’s in guest mode.

“The amounts we award vary, but our message to researchers does not; each one represents a sincere ‘thank you’,” said Eduardo Vela Nava, technical lead for the vulnerability rewards program.



Android will now store Google searches offline and deliver them when you get signal

Google is rolling out an update for its Android app that makes it easier to search the internet with an inconsistent internet connection. Users can make searches when offline and the Google app will store them, delivering the results later (with an optional notification) when the devices gets signal again.

As Google product manager Shekhar Sharad writes in a blog post: “So the next time you lose service, feel free to queue up your searches, put your phone away and carry on with your day. The Google app will work behind-the-scenes to detect when a connection is available again and deliver your search results once completed.”

Sharad also notes that the feature “won’t drain your battery” and will only have a “minimal” impact on data usage. Any pending searches will be stored in the Google app itself under the Manage Searches option. Let’s hope the iOS Google app gets a similar update some time soon.