Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Why does Brussels have Google’s Android in its sights?

The EU is poised to open a new front in its showdown with Google as early as Wednesday by announcing formal charges in relation to the company’s mobile operating system, Android. The case would represent a fresh chapter in Brussels’ efforts to combat the alleged abuses of US technology companies, and has already drawn comparisons with its clash with Microsoft a decade ago.

Has the EU not already charged Google with anti-competitive behaviour?

Yes, this would be a second charge sheet, known as a statement of objections. The first accused Google of abusing its dominance of online search to promote its own shopping services unfairly. Google denies the charge and the case is ongoing.

How dominant is Android as the operating system on smartphones?

Very. More than 80 per cent of smartphones globally use Android’s open-source system, which can be used free of charge by anyone. By contrast Apple’s own iOS operating system, used in the iPhone and iPad, represents only about 13 per cent of the market, according to data from Gartner.

Google Says Android Is More Secure Than Ever

Despite concerns that Android is susceptible to some scary security issues, Google argues its mobile operating system has never been better.

The company on Tuesday released its Android Security 2015 Annual Report, which shows that as long as users were downloading apps from the company’s Google Play marketplace, they were unlikely to have faced much trouble. In fact, Google’s  GOOGL -1.61%  report shows that “potentially harmful apps,” or PHAs, “were installed on fewer than 0.15% of devices that only get apps from Google Play.”

Google broke down its findings by the potentially harmful application. The company said that installs of apps that collected data were down more than 40% to 0.08% of all Google Play downloads. Spyware app installs decreased by 60% to 0.02% of installs, and “hostile downloaders,” which download malicious apps on a user’s device without their permission, were down 50% to 0.01% of installs.


420 Million Android Devices Don't Get Security Updates, Google Reports

Google GOOGL +17.18% bust out the data to prove doubters wrong about the quality of Android security. But, according to its second-ever yearly Android security report, issued Tuesday, as many as 420 million active devices are not supported by its patches, leaving a large number open to possible attack.

According to Google’s data, nearly 30 per cent of all active Android phones and tablets (of which there are 1.4 billion at last count) are on a version that do not receive patches. Anyone running an Android version below 4.4.4 does not currently receive security updates from the tech titan. Google, for obvious reasons, recommends users run the most up-to-date operating system.

But there’s some good news: even the most high-profile vulnerabilities don’t seem to have been exploited by hackers. Despite the widespread concern around the Stagefright vulnerabilities, which affected nearly 1 billion phones, no successful exploits were ever reported.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Europe’s antitrust chief scrutinizing Google’s Android contracts

Google will be concerned the European Commission’s antitrust commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, is not letting up the pressure in an ongoing probe of its Android mobile OS.

In a speech today at a conference in the Netherlands, Vestager said her department is now “closely” examining Google’s contracts with mobile makers and carriers — with specific concerns focused on the requirements the company places on mobile partners to pre-load its apps on devices.

“Our concern is that, by requiring phone makers and operators to pre-load a set of Google apps, rather than letting them decide for themselves which apps to load, Google might have cut off one of the main ways that new apps can reach customers,” she said.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Lenovo A7000 Receiving Android 6.0 Marshmallow Update

It’s been more than a year since Lenovo A7000, a mid-range smartphone, made its debut in India. At that time, the device shipped with Android 5.0.2 Lollipop operating system onboard, but Lenovo promised that, at some point, it would provide a Marshmallow upgrade.
Earlier this week, the Chinese company has kicked off the rollout of Android 6.0 Marshmallow update for Lenovo A7000. Although the smartphone was launched in many countries since last year, the update is only available in India for the time being.

According to the official changelog, the update optimizes the logic of the SD card. This means that if you previously switched the default storage device, after upgrading to Marshmallow, the data and application stored on your SD card may be lost, so you should definitely back up any important data.


Android N will support pressure-sensitive screens

Android N is going to make it easier for device makers to create their own version of 3D Touch pressure-sensitive screens on their devices. Hopefully, when it's officially released, Google will figure out what to call the feature — because Apple 3D Touch is obviously Apple branding, and "support for pressure-sensitive screens" is an awful thing to have to write over and over again.

So how do we know? Well, support for "Launcher shortcuts" is probably the most exciting new thing in the latest beta for the upcoming Android N operating system, which was released last week. It allows developers to "define shortcuts which users can expose in the launcher to help them perform actions quicker." Which is a fairly technical way of describing what people can do now with an iPhone 6S in its launcher: get a pop-up menu that lets you jump directly into a more specific part of your app.


Android N preview 2 lets you change the pitch of Google’s text-to-speech voice

The second developer preview of Android N, the next big release of Google’s mobile operating system, comes with a neat update to the settings for Google’s core text-to-speech engine. There are now sliders that allow you to fine-tune the speech rate and pitch of the voice.

They let you make the recently improved Google voice speak more slowly or quickly, at a squeaky high pitch or at a firm low pitch. The update should be particularly welcome to visually impaired users who rely heavily on audio output features, such as the TalkBack accessibility feature. But this voice element is also present in things like Google search.