Google to Flag Apps That Snoop Without Permission

The new alerts will appear on user devices via Google Play Protect and webpages that lead to the offending apps.

Google is quietly formulating a new strategy for China

Google is slowing piecing together a strategy for China to ensure that it doesn’t miss out on the growth of technology in the world’s largest country. It’s been months in the making through a series of gradual plays, but further evidence of those plans comes today via a product launch. Files Go — a file manager for Android devices released last year — has made its way to China today. Not a huge launch, for sure, but the mechanisms behind it provide insight into how Google may be thinking about the country, where it has been absent since 2010 after redirecting its Chinese search service to Hong Kong in the face of government pressure. For Files Go, Google is taking a partner-led approach to distribution because the Google Play Store does not operate in China. The company is working with Tencent, Huawei, Xiaomi and Baidu, each of which will stock the app in their independent app stores, which are among the country’s most prominent third-party stores. Let that sink in a little: the creator of Android is using third-party Android app stores to distribute one of its products. On the outside that’s quite the scenario, but in China it makes perfect of sense. There’s been regular media speculation in recent about Google’s desire to return to China which, during its absence, has become the largest single market for smartphone users, and the country with the most app downloads and highest app revenue per year. Mostly the rumors have centered around audacious strategies such as the return of the Google Play Store or the restoration of Google’s Chinese search business, both of which would mean complying with demands from the Chinese government. Then there’s the politics. The U.S. and China are currently in an ongoing trade standoff that has spilled into tech, impacting deals, while Chinese premier Xi Jinping has taken a protectionist approach to promoting local business and industries, in particular AI. XI’s more controversial policies, including the banning of VPNs, have put heat on Apple, which stands accused of colluding with authorities and preventing free speech in China. Political tension between the U.S. and China is affecting tech companies. [Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images]Even when you remove the political issues, a full return is a tough challenge. Google would be starting businesses almost from scratch in a highly competitive market where it has little brand recognition. It’s hardly surprising, then, that it hasn’t made big moves… yet at least. Instead, it appears that the company is exploring more nimble approaches. There have been opportunistic product launches using established platforms, and generally Google seems intent at building relationships and growing a local presence that allows its global business to tap into the talent and technology that China offers. Files Go is the latest example, but already we’ve seen Google relaunch its Translate app in 2017 and more recently it brought its ARCore technology for augmented and virtual reality to China using partners, which include Xiaomi and Huawei. Bouquets of flowers lie on the Google logo outside the company’s China head office in Beijing on March 23, 2010 after the US web giant said it would no longer filter results and was redirecting mainland Chinese users to an uncensored site in Hong Kong — effectively closing down the mainland site. Google’s decision to effectively shut down its Chinese-language search engine is likely to stunt the development of the Internet in China and isolate local web users, analysts say. (Photo credit: xin/AFP/Getty Images) Beyond products, Google is cultivating relationships, too. It inked a wide-ranging patent deal with Tencent, China’s $500 billion tech giant which operates WeChat and more, and has made strategic investments to back AI startup XtalPi (alongside Tencent), live-streaming platform Chushou, and AI and hardware company Mobvoi. There have been events, too, including AlphaGo’s three-game battle with Chinese grandmaster Ke Jie in Wuzhen, developer events in China and the forthcoming first Google Asia Demo Day, which takes places in Shanghai in September. In addition to making friends in the right places, Google is also increasing its own presence on Chinese soil. The company opened an AI lab in Beijing to help access China-based talent, while it also unveiled a more modest presence in Shenzhen, China’s hardware capital, where it has a serviced office for staff. That hardware move ties into Google’s acquisition of a chunk of HTC’s smartphone division for $1.1 billion. The strategy is no doubt in its early days, so now is a good time to keep a keen eye on Google’s moves in this part of the world.

Google Play audiobooks get Smart Resume, bookmarks and Assistant routines support

Google Play Audiobooks is getting a major update today that adds a number of new features to the service that were sorely missing when it launched earlier this year. None of these are groundbreaking, but they’ll help Google reach feature parity with some of its competitors while injecting a bit of its proprietary smarts into the process, too. Maybe the most useful new feature in today’s release is Smart Resume. Instead of picking up in the middle of a sentence or even word when your audiobook playback gets interrupted (maybe by Google Maps giving you directions or a friendly passerby who is asking for directions while you are clearly listening to an audiobook). Depending on the length of the interruption, this new feature will smartly rewind to the beginning of the word or sentence to help you stay in the flow. Also new in this update are the ability to set bookmarks so you can easily go back to your favorite part of a book and the ability to speed up the audio — or slow it down so you can really savor your favorite passage in Ulysses. Both of these features were definitely missing in the first release. If you’re a regular Google Assistant user and are already making use of the recently launched Routines feature, you’ll be happy to hear that you can now choose to continue your audiobooks when you wake up or start your commute. And if you have family that’s spread around the world, you’ll be happy to hear that support for Google’s Family Library, which allows you to share Google Play purchases like apps, games, movies, e-books and audiobooks, is now rolling out in 13 new countries: Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Chile, Mexico, Japan (audiobooks only) and South Africa. All of these new features are now available on iOS and Android.

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Free yourself from physical boards, counters, tokens, dice, cards, and rule books with these top-notch game titles for Android and iOS.

Tech devices that make for great last-minute gifts for anyone

Makula Dunbar Contributor Makula Dunbar is a writer with Wirecutter. Editor’s note: This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. It should be easy to give a gift. But it can be hard trying to choose what gift to give. That’s especially true with technology, where products tend to be more functional than emotional. Here’s what matters most: finding a present that connects to the recipient, creates a sense of enjoyment, and that they’re actually going to use. Here are five tech gifts that will appeal to almost anyone. Jaybird X3 Wireless Sport Earbuds The Jaybird X3 earbuds are designed for working out, but their design and great audio makes them perfect for anyone on the go. The X3’s interchangeable tips and fins offer a highly customizable, comfortable fit. Overall sound is high quality out of the box, but we like that the companion Jaybird app allows a tailored listening experience. Eight hours of playback time means you’ll be set throughout multiple workouts or a full work day. Amazon Echo (2nd generation) Voice-Controlled Speaker While there’s more than enough buzz surrounding voice-controlled speakers, they’re not yet considered a standard home item. But we think they’re helpful, and we know that a lot of folks find them incredibly useful for ordering food, listening to audiobooks, streaming music, or controlling their appliances and lighting. Our favorite is the Amazon Echo (2nd generation), which does more (and does it better) than any other current model. It supports a huge list of smart-home devices—including thermostats, light bulbs, and vacuums, and it has a set of skills, including offering custom weather, news and calendar alerts. (Note: If you’re giving one of these devices as a gift, make sure the recipient’s preferred music service is supported; Amazon’s devices, for example, work with its own Prime Music service, as well as Spotify, but not with Apple Music.) Jackery Bolt USB Battery A convenient device (which at times doubles as a lifesaver) is a gift that anyone would consider a necessity. We researched more than 300 USB power banks and battery packs and tested 40, naming the Jackery Bolt as our top pick. The Jackery Bolt is made out of aluminum and is the perfect size for carrying around in your bag or pocket every day. It has two connector cables (one Lightning and one MicroUSB), and its 6000 mAh battery has enough power to charge a medium-sized smartphone twice. Nixplay Seed Digital Photo Frame The Nixplay Seed digital photo frame is perfect way to keep faraway friends and family members in sight. Since it’s Wi-Fi-enabled, you can be anywhere and use social media platforms, cloud storage, or your smartphone to upload pictures. It’s a great gift because new and old moments can be shared anytime, giving viewers more reasons to touch base with you. It has a high-resolution IPS display that can show images in landscape or portrait orientation. The photo frame’s remote and sensor—which turns the device off when no one’s in the room — lets you choose what you want to see at your convenience. Multiple people can create photo playlists through the Nixplay website, or add pictures to be shown by sending them through email. With 8GB of storage it has the capacity to hold roughly 25,000 smartphone photos. GoPro Hero5 Black Action Camera The GoPro Hero5 Black is our top pick for action cameras because it can be used for everyday filming, capturing memories during travel adventures, and is great in environments that aren’t suitable for larger, pricier camera equipment. It doesn’t have a clunky case, but it’s still waterproof. For those who usually place tech integration at the top of their gear list, the GoPro Hero5 Black also has a touchscreen interface and voice-control capabilities. During testing we found its footage to be crisp and clear with accurate color in addition to sound quality that’s worth keeping in professional edits. Garmin Vivosport Fitness Tracker If you’re looking for a way to jumpstart your exercise routine and you haven’t picked up a fitness tracker, now’s the time. We’ve tested 23 fitness trackers over the past three years and think the Garmin Vivosport is the best option. Its built-in GPS, long-lasting battery life and color display set it apart from others. In addition to monitoring your workouts (including strength-training reps), it helps keep tabs on your sleep and stress levels, and is Bluetooth-enabled for IOS and Android integration with streaming music and notifications. This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter. Note from Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.

HQ Trivia Is Coming to Android | Crunch Report

HQ Trivia is coming to Android, Amazon Echo is the No. 1 best seller on the site and the founder of LeEco is ordered to return to China. All this on Crunch Report. Read More

50 Languages (for Android)

The 50 Languages app has a wealth of material for studying dozens of languages, and all for free, but the experience is rather low-tech.

Secure communications service Wickr is rolling out new free features

Wickr, the secure communications service, is bringing new features to its free users. Already available to paying Wickr customers, users of Wickr’s “Me” service will also now be able to enjoy encrypted calling to protect against listening ears. The company is adding end-to-end encrypted calling along with encrypted and ephemeral voice messages and memo. These […]

Google I/O kicks off tomorrow — here’s what to expect

Google has been rolling out news at a steady rate since last week, in what feels like a bit of a last-minute clearinghouse ahead of tomorrow. The company’s already taken the wraps off of news about Android TV, Google Home, Wear OS Assistant, you name it. If this were practically any other company, we’d be concerned that there’s nothing left to discuss. But this is Google. The next few days are going to be jam-packed with developer news and a whole lot of information around the company’s consumer-facing offerings over the next year and beyond. Android, Assistant, Wear OS, search and the like are going to take center stage when the company kicks off the festivities tomorrow at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View. You’d better believe we’ll be on-hand bringing you all of the relevant information as it breaks. In the meantime, here’s some of what you can expect from the big show. Android P The latest version of Google’s mobile operating system seems likely to take center stage here — be it Peppermint Patty, Pudding or Popsicle. The first developer preview of 9.0 dropped in March of this year, and I/O is likely to be the launching pad of the next big one. Given how much of Oreo’s changes happened behind the scenes, it stands to reason that we’re in for a more consumer-facing update for the OS this time out. We’ve already seen a bit of those visual updates, including new notifications and some upgrades setting the stage for the nearly ubiquitous top notch. That, by most accounts, won’t be going away any time soon. “Material Design 2” is a buzzword that’s been floating around for a few months now to describe the first major overhaul to the OS’s aesthetic in about four years, bringing an overall flatter and more universal design language to Android. We’ll also likely get some more insight into a gesture-based navigation that takes some cues from the iPhone X. Assistant/Home Assistant has been a linchpin in Google’s ecosystem play for a few years now, and its importance is only likely to grow. Announcements over the past couple of weeks have broadened the company’s Siri/Alexa competitor to even more categories, including Android TV and Wear OS, so probably don’t do an Assistant-related drinking game tomorrow, unless you’re gunning for alcohol poisoning. It also seems fairly likely that we’ll see more devices on this front. A second version of Google Home seems overdue. That could well get an Echo-like update, bringing it up to speed with the rest of the line. And what of all of those Smart Displays the company talked up back at CES? Things have been pretty quiet on that front — perhaps a little too quiet. Expect partnerships galore. The company showed off a Fandango Action just this week — and that’s likely to only be the tip of the iceberg. AR/VR/AI Artificial intelligence has also been gaining plenty of steam on the Google campus. AI and ML have been the driving forces in key offerings like Translate, Lens and, of course, Assistant, which the company is looking to truly distinguish from the competition. The company’s TensorFlow machine learning engine is going to get a lot of attention. Google also just recently took the wraps off the Lenovo-branded Daydream headset, setting the stage for some big VR talk at this week’s show. Of course, the company seems even more content to focus on augmented reality these days. The tech has been a focus recently on Pixel devices, as the company looks to distinguish ARCore from Apple’s ARKit. Now’s the time for the company to really double down on what’s becoming a more and more important piece of mobile tech. Wear OS This is a tough one. Google already revealed some Assistant features for the newly rebranded wearable operating system, perhaps in an attempt to build a little excitement around what, by most accounts, has been a pretty stagnant product category for the company. Wearables in general have been on a bit of a downward trajectory and Google specifically hasn’t done a lot to change that. The company really needs to come in with guns blazing here and reassert itself in the category. Assistant integration will do a bit to help invigorate the company, but expect to see Google do a much better job laying out what the future of wearables will look like under the new rebrand. Google I/O kicks off tomorrow. You can follow along here.

YouTube Live gains automatic captions, chat replay and more

YouTube today announced several new features designed to improve the live streaming experience for both creators and viewers. The most notable additions include the ability to play back a live chat after the live stream ends, and the launch of live automatic captions on videos. YouTube began offering automatic captioning back in 2009, and has […]

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