Android Apps Will Soon Need Google's Permission to Access Your Location in the Background

To improve user privacy, Google is updating its Play Store policies to restrict the use of location data by Android apps when they’re not actively running. Currently, any Android app can request permission for such access from the user. Starting in August, apps will only be able to do so with explicit permission from Google, having demonstrated a specific need for access to location data in the background. In November, Google will remove apps from the Play Store that have not complied with the new policy. Also today, Google announced the first Developer Preview of Android 11, which includes a new user option to allow apps to access location data on a one-time basis.

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Android 11 Preview Brings New Messaging Notifications, One-Time Permissions

Google has released the first Developer Preview of Android 11. The list of features in this version provides a glimpse of what to expect when Android 11 becomes available to consumers later this year. Messaging receives the biggest update, with a new dedicated section of the notifications shade devoted to ongoing conversations. Messaging apps can also use “bubbles” to float a simple messaging thread window above other apps. System permission dialog boxes (for access to location, etc.) now have an “Only this time” option, similar to iOS. Android 11 also adds native support for secure storage and retrieval of verifiable identification documents, such as ISO 18013-5 compliant Mobile Driving Licenses. Call screening apps will now have standardized access to STIR-SHAKEN data, as well as a new screen that appears after each call, “to let users perform actions such as marking a call as spam or adding to contacts.”. Also new are better support for pinhole displays, waterfall displays, animated HIEF image files, and low-latency video modes. Developers will benefit from new APIs for machine learning, as well as 5G network status and performance. Android 11 also advances Google’s Project Mainline, moving additional components of the OS into modules that are quickly and easily updated via the Google Play Store, instead of requiring a manufacturer-supplied full OS update. The Developer Preview released today is not a “public beta” and is not intended for consumers; it will only run on certain Pixel devices and requires manual installation. Separately, Google announced that Android 11 will enhance Work Profile so that companies issuing company-owned phones to employees can give employees separate work and personal profiles on the same device. Companies still control the work profile and can set device-wide restrictions, but personal data is kept private from the employer. This feature was previously only available for personally-owned devices, not company-issued devices. Google is expected to reveal additional features of Android 11 at its developer conference in May.

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OnePlus Drops Price of 7T to $499

OnePlus has cut the price of its newest flagship 4G phone by $100, bringing the OnePlus 7T to $499. The 7T sports triple rear cameras and unusually fast charging.

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TikTok Rolling Out Parental Controls

TikTok is rolling out a new feature called Family Safety Mode, which lets parents set limits on their children’s TikTok accounts. Parents will need to install TikTok and link their account to their child’s. The app will then let parents set screen time limits, restrict the appearance of content that may not be appropriate for all audiences, and limit who can direct message their child. The feature is available first in the UK, and will begin to roll out to “additional markets in the coming weeks”.

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Google Expands Stadia Support to Gaming Phones, Flagship Samsungs

Google is expanding the list of phones supported by its Stadia game-streaming service on February 20th. Initially supported only on its own Pixel phones, Stadia will support Samsung flagship Galaxy S and Note series phones (S8 and newer), as well as gaming phones from Razer and Asus (ROG Phone and ROG Phone II). For a controller, gamers can either connect a Stadia controller via USB, or third-party controllers via Bluetooth. Stadia competes with Microsoft’s xCloud and Nvidia’s GeForce Now. Like those other game-streaming services, Stadia runs full console-quality games on powerful servers in the cloud, streaming video of the rendered graphics to the user’s device. Such services benefit from the higher data rates and lower latency of 5G networks. Forthcoming 5G SA networks will further reduce latency and improve data rates.

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New Standard Aims to Make Wi-Fi and Cellular Ubiquitous on Planes

The Seamless Air Alliance today released Seamless Release 1.0 (SR1), the first-ever standard for inflight connectivity hardware and software. The new standard supports all current connectivity technology, including multiple types of satellite systems as well as both Wi-Fi and cellular technologies within the plane cabin. By standardizing modular hardware, inevitable technology upgrades and changes are cheaper for airlines. This removes much of the risk to airlines when installing inflight connectivity systems on planes, which previously required a commitment to certain provider and/or technology stack. This is expected to accelerate the rollout of such systems. On the passenger side, the standard is designed to make the connection process more seamless and more secure. It supports Hotspot 2.0, which lets mobile devices automatically and securely connect to Wi-Fi networks, authenticating using their cellular carrier account. The Seamless Air Alliance was created by founding members Airbus, Airtel, Delta Air Lines, OneWeb, and Sprint.

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Qualcomm X60 Modem Will Enable Faster, Slimmer 5G Phones

Qualcomm today announced its third-generation 5G modem, the Snapdragon X60. The chip supports new types of 5G carrier aggregation compared to the X55 it replaces, including across TDD and FDD bands, and across mmWave and sub-6 bands. These new aggregation options will enable more carriers to offer faster 5G data speeds, including doubling potential sub-6 peak speeds. The chip also supports native voice calls over 5G (VoNR). Support for VoNR and the new aggregation options will help carriers transition from 5G NSA (non-stand-alone) to more advanced 5G SA (stand-alone) networks. The X60 is made using a cutting-edge 5nm manufacturing process, producing a smaller, more power-efficient modem chip. Alongside the X60, Qualcomm is also introducing a new mmWave antenna module (QTM535) that’s narrower than the company’s existing antenna modules, enabling slimmer phones that support mmWave 5G.

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LG Puts Quad Rear Cameras on Entry-Level Lineup

LG today announced three new models in the K series, the company’s most affordable series of phones. All three phones share a similar design, with a 6.5-inch screen filling the front and four cameras plus a fingerprint reader on the back. The four rear cameras on each are: standard, wide, macro, and depth. All three also have a 4,000 mAh battery, NFC, USB-C, dedicated Google Assistant button, and a memory card slot.

  • K61: Full-HD+ display resolution, 48 megapixel main camera, 8 megapixel wide camera, 16 megapixel selfie camera, 4 GB RAM, and 64 or 128 GB storage.
  • K51S: HD+ display resolution, 32 megapixel main camera, 5 megapixel wide camera, 13 megapixel selfie camera, 3 GB RAM, and 64 GB storage. (shown)
  • K41S: HD+ display resolution, 13 megapixel main camera, 5 megapixel wide camera, 8 megapixel selfie camera, 3 GB RAM, and 32 GB storage.

US carriers often offer LG K-series phones, particularly the K3x and K4x lines, sometimes under different names, and sometimes with slightly tweaked specs. LG says these three new models will reach “the Americas” in the second quarter.

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New York AG Rules out Appeal of T-Mobile+Sprint Merger Decision

New York State Attorney General Letitia James issued the following statement today regarding the recent court decision to allow the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint: “After a thorough analysis, New York has decided not to move forward with an appeal in this case.” The merger is now expected to proceed quickly. T-Mobile claims the merger may close as soon as April 1st.

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Gboard now lets you Remix Emoji

Google has updated its Gboard keyboard option for Android phones to include a new Emoji Kitchen feature, which lets you create sticker graphics based on custom combinations and variations of standard emoji. For example, when you tap the face-with-cowboy-hat emoji, it presents options for monkey cowboy, ghost cowboy, laughing cowboy, kissy cowboy, in love cowboy, pleading cowboy, and pensive cowboy. The feature is rolling out to all Gboard users starting this week.

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