Microsoft now has 74 hardware partners pre-installing its apps on Android devices

Microsoft Word on Android.

Microsoft today announced that it now has 74 hardware makers in 25 countries that are pre-installing, or will pre-install, Microsoft apps on its Android phones.

Apps included in this arrangement include Word, Excel, OneDrive, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Skype, Nick Parker, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s original equipment manufacturer division, wrote in a blog post.

Office and Microsoft services are available on a wide variety of Android devices today, such as the LG G Pad 2, Samsung Galaxy S6, Sony Xperia Z4 and many other tablets and phones offered by our partners,” Parker wrote.

Microsoft has done more to embrace Android lately, including bringing its Cortana personal digital assistant to Google’s mobile operating system. Microsoft’s Arrow Android launcher launched out of beta in October, and a few weeks before that Microsoft bought Double Labs, the company behind the Android lockscreen app Echo. And Microsoft has also adjusted its approach to making Windows Phones — specifically as it relates to flagship Lumias — perhaps with the idea of focusing more on software for iOS and Android.

In December Microsoft said new Windows 10 phones would come with Office pre-installed.

Android had the largest mobile OS marketshare in the U.S. at the end of 2015 with 53.3 percent, while Windows Phone had 2.9 percent, according to data from comScore.










Google launches Android Studio 2.0 beta with Cold Swap, app indexing improvements, and multi-touch support

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Google has released Android Studio 2.0 beta, the latest version of its integrated development environment (IDE). Until now, preview releases were available in the Canary channel, but Android Studio 2.0 has been promoted to the Beta channel.

In November, Google unveiled Android Studio 2.0, the second major version of its IDE. Version 2.0 brings a slew of improvements, including Instant Run, a faster Android emulator, and a new GPU profiler. Google hasn’t shared when it expects to release Android Studio 2.0 in the stable channel, but we’re still betting it will be ready in time for the company’s I/O developer conference in May.

Google has been hard at work: This isn’t just about fixing bugs. The Beta release brings a slew of improvements, including the following:

  • Instant Run: The beta release introduces a new capability called Cold Swap. This option quickly restarts the whole application, which can be useful for structural code change, including changes to the class hierarchy, method signatures, static initializers, or fields. Cold Swap is available when you deploy to targets with API level 21 or above.
  • App Indexing: In the first preview of Android Studio 2.0 you could add indexing code stubs into your code. With the beta release you can now test and validate your URL links with the built-in validation tool (Tools => => Android => Google App Indexing Test).
  • Android Emulator: The rotation controls have been updated on the emulator toolbar. Multi-touch support (hold down the Alt key on your keyboard and right-click) for testing apps that use pinch and zoom gestures has been added.

android_studio_multitouch

Google says “the beta release is near stable release quality” but as with any beta, you can naturally expect that “bugs may still exist.” If you’re already using Android Studio, you can get the latest version on the Beta channel by going to Help and choosing “Check for Update.”










comScore: Apple ends 2015 with 42.9% of U.S. smartphone share, Samsung at 28.4%; BlackBerry OS falls under 1%

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Apple’s dominance as the top smartphone maker in the U.S. continued throughout last year, growing slightly from 41.6 percent in December 2014 to 42.9 percent of the pie at the end of 2015. Samsung meanwhile slipped a bit, from 29.7 percent in December 2014 to 28.4 percent in December 2015. Rounding out the top five were LG (up), Motorola (flat), and HTC (down).

In the mobile OS wars, Google’s Android kept the U.S. crown with 53.3 percent, moving up 0.2 percentage points year over year, while Apple held second with iOS, also moving up the same 1.3 percentage points as a smartphone maker. Microsoft’s Windows Phone dropped 0.5 points to 2.9 while BlackBerry OS halved its share from 1.8 percent to 0.9 percent.

The latest data comes from comScore, which estimates 197.4 million Americans owned smartphones (79.3 percent mobile market penetration) during Q4 2015. Here is how the top five smartphone makers fared last quarter:

comscore_smartphone_december_2015

Over the last three months of the year, Apple lost share while Samsung capitalized. As we already mentioned though, Apple actually fared better when looking across the whole year. Everyone else in the U.S. market is still very far behind, though LG almost managed to hit double digits. The bigger changes will likely come when the January figures arrive, as that’s when the impact of holiday sales will become apparent.

On the software side, Google ended 2015 very strongly. In December, Android was the undisputed winner once again while Apple’s iOS held on to second without issue:

comscore_smartphone_os_december_2015

While Microsoft’s Windows Phone fails to gain traction but it’s BlackBerry that has managed to hit a new low. BlackBerry OS fell below 1 percent, a low it hasn’t seen for decades in the U.S. Given its Android ambitions, this is hardly surprising.

At the end of 2014, the Android-iOS duopoly in the U.S. hit 94.7 percent market share. At the end of 2015, it had hit 96.2 percent. We expected that something would give, but Windows 10 Mobile was the only real hope, and it has been plagued with delay after delay, among other issues. Right now at least, it doesn’t look like 2016 will break Apple and Google’s mobile stranglehold.










Android Marshmallow finally passes 1% adoption after 4 months

Android Marshmallow

The latest version of Android is finally on 1 percent of devices. Google released its monthly update to the Platform Versions page for Android today, and the preceding zero for Marshmallow’s adoption is gone.

Android Marshmallow debuted just over four months ago on September 29 with the launch of Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P. But the devices didn’t start shipping until October, and not many new devices with Marshmallow have debuted since then.

Adoption of 1.2 percent after four months is sad to see, though we can expect growth to slowly pick up over the next few months. This is the latest confirmation that Nexus devices don’t sell well, and Google’s newest iterations are no exception.

android_adoption_february_2016

Here are the changes between January and February:

  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow (October 2015): Up 0.5 points to 1.2 percent
  • Android 5.0/5.1 Lollipop (November 2014, March 2015): Up 1.5 points to 34.1 percent
  • Android 4.4 KitKat (October 2013): Down 0.6 points to 35.5 percent
  • Android 4.1/4.2/4.3 Jelly Bean (July 2012, November 2012, and July 2013): Down 0.8 points to 23.9 percent
  • Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (December 2011): Down 0.2 points to 2.5 percent
  • Android 2.3 Gingerbread (February 2011): Down 0.3 points to 2.7 percent
  • Android 2.2 Froyo (May 2010): Down 0.1 points to 0.1 percent

As with any update courtesy of the Platform Versions tool, we have to point out that the data is gathered from the Google Play Store app, which requires Android 2.2 and above. This means devices running older versions are not included, nor are devices that don’t have Google Play installed (which includes many Android phones and tablets in China, Amazon’s Fire line, and so on).

For the sake of comparison, here’s the Android adoption chart for January:

android_adoption_january_2016

The Android adoption order is still unchanged: KitKat in first place, Lollipop in second, Jelly Bean in third, Gingerbread in fourth, ICS in fifth, Marshmallow in sixth, and Froyo in seventh. Lollipop should take first place soon, and Marshmallow will jump over a few spots this year.










Nintendo is ‘looking’ into virtual reality

An Oculus Rift headset.

Nintendo has a new smartphone game and a new dedicated gaming system coming soon, but it’s also taking a peak at this whole virtual reality thing.

In a briefing with investors, the publisher said that it is “looking” at VR, according to industry analyst Serkan Toto. The company provided no other details about what that means or whether it has deeper plans, but this is the company acknowledging that this is a space it should try to understand. With the Wii U barely scraping by and the 3DS dwindling fast, Nintendo may also find the projected $120B VR industry interesting for reasons that concern its bottom line.

Without understanding what the NX is beyond a followup to the Wii U and 3DS, it’s difficult to understand Nintendo’s path into VR from where it is today. Maybe that system has some sort of way of working with virtual reality, but that seems unlikely since that would make the system either expensive or dependent on a peripheral. Instead, expect something a bit more traditional.

The company is also getting ready to focus heavily on smartphone games with the first release, Miitomo, coming in March. After that, Nintendo will release around a half dozen other smartphone games with its partner DeNA.

And when Nintendo isn’t working on NX or smartphones, it still has a Wii U and 3DS to support and a Zelda game to finish.

More information:

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BlackBerry: ‘The PRIV device is essentially our transition to Android’

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A BlackBerry senior director has gone on record to The Economic Times with some of the most definitive language yet in acknowledging the end of the road for the BlackBerry 10 platform. The employee also revealed that the company is preparing two distinct Android handsets for launch at price points lower than that of the premium Priv.

In an interview on the occasion of Priv’s India launch, senior director of APAC product management Damian Tay told the Times that

The PRIV device is essentially our transition to Android ecosystem. As we secure Android, over a period of time, we would not have two platforms, and may have only Android as a platform…The future is really Android.

This frank assessment is one of the most concrete we’ve yet heard about the presumed complete abandonment of BB10 — even more definitive than CEO John Chen’s revelation at last month’s CES that no devices powered by the operating system would be released this calendar year.

However, Chen still kept the door open by suggesting that a successful Android business might lead to a new round of BB10 handsets in 2017 or beyond — a concept that we were somewhat skeptical of.

BlackBerry has been attempting to maintain a delicate balancing act with respect to its messaging, following its announcement that an Android device was being developed. While it’s trying to draw in new customers with the popularity and app abundance enjoyed by the world’s most popular mobile OS, it’s also been careful to assure loyal BB10 fans that it has not forgotten them.

Separately, Tay reportedly told the Times that BlackBerry will be adding two lower-priced Android phones to its lineup. Only one such handset, codenamed Vienna, has been seen thus far. At $700 ($925 in India), Priv is currently one of the higher priced handsets on the market.










Google changes Android permissions to make game sign-ups easier

Android Marshmallow on a Nexus 5X.

Google has changed the way the Android operating system handles permissions for game players so that it becomes a lot easier to sign players up for transactions.

Google (which is changing its formal name to Alphabet) said today it is changing permissions for Google Play games by altering the model for games applications programming interfaces. The company is addressing “friction,” a common complaint from developers about how it takes too many steps to sign players up and handle transactions.

Apple has an advantage on this front because it has signed customers up for more than a decade to iTunes accounts. Those users have their own sign-ins and credit cards on file so they can immediately start making in-app purchases in games. Google’s own direct history with users is shorter, and that’s why it has more friction.

 

Under the new model, players will be prompted to sign in once per account, rather than once per game. Players no longer need their account upgraded to Google+ to use Play Games services. Once players have signed in for the first time, they will no longer need to sign in for any future games. They will be automatically signed in. (If they wish, players can turn off auto-sign-in in the Play Games apps settings.

“Once a user signs in for first time, new games will generally be able to sign in without any user interaction,” Wolff Dobson, developer advocate, said in a blog post. “There is no consent screen required for signing in on any particular game. Sign-in will be automatic to each new game. In order to respect user’s privacy and avoid revealing their real name, we also have to change the way player IDs work.”

Existing players will continue to get their Google+ ID when they sign in. New players will get a new player ID which is not the same as the previous IDs used. Most games will see no interruption or change in service. But in a handful of case, Dobson said some change is required. The post describes the technical solutions.

 

Dobson said, “Let’s be very clear: If you do nothing, unless you are depending explicitly on Google+ features, you will see no change in functionality, and a smoother sign-in experience.”

 










Indian Startup CREO Raises $3M To Build Its Own Android-based OS And Smartphones

shutterstock smartphone users illustration CREO is a new startup in India with big ambitions. It not only wants to create a new Android-based operating system, but also produce its own smartphones. The Bengaluru-based company announced today that it has raised $3 million from Sequoia India, Beenext Ventures, and India Quotient. Read More

Skype for Android now lets you schedule calls and open files directly in Microsoft Office

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Skype today updated its Android app with a new scheduling feature and Microsoft Office integration. You can download the latest version now from Google Play.

Last week, Microsoft updated Outlook for Android and iOS with support to schedule Skype calls. Now the Microsoft-owned company is returning the favor: You can now schedule calls in Outlook from Skype for Android.

In fact, the call scheduling should work with any calendar app. To use the feature, just tap on the person you plan to call, tap the menu in the upper right, and select “Schedule a call” (pictured below on the left). Skype will create an event and send out the calendar invite.

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Next up, Skype for Android now integrates with the Microsoft Office apps on Google’s mobile platform. You can now easily open documents, spreadsheets, and presentations that you receive in Skype chats (pictured above on the right).

If you receive a Word, Excel, or PowerPoint file, tapping it will open the corresponding app: Word, Excel, or PowerPoint for Android. If you don’t have the corresponding Office app installed, tapping on the file will tell you how to download and install it.

More to follow










Apple reportedly building tool for transferring your iPhone data to Android

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Apple is reportedly developing a tool that will let existing iPhone users more easily switch to Android. Such an option would be a big departure for Apple and its closed ecosystem, but it is apparently the result of pressure from carriers, not because the American company suddenly wants to play nice.

Apple has a very specific strategy compared to Google and Microsoft when it comes to its rivals’ app stores. That said, last year the company released its first three Android apps: Move to iOS, Beats Pill+, and Apple Music. The first one, which was quickly destroyed with one-star reviews, lets Android users more easily switch to Apple’s iOS by moving their personal data for them.

Unsurprisingly, Apple’s first Android app benefits Apple. This alleged new tool would help Google (Windows and BlackBerry OS are not mentioned).

The Telegraph reports:

According to a senior industry source, Apple has privately agreed to develop a simple tool to help consumers shift data such as contacts, music and photos if they move to Android. Major European telecoms operators are concerned that only a tiny fraction of customers ever move off the iPhone, in part because of the technical hassle of transferring data. The operators fear that the lack of switching weakens their hand in commercial negotiations with Apple, which holds the mobile industry’s strongest card in the iPhone.

Given how Apple generally treats other platforms, it’s difficult for us to accept that such a tool is willing being developed, and definitely harder to believe that it would ever see the light of day.

This report is plausible, but it feels like key details are missing. Indeed, until we hear about some sort of legal reason, we doubt Apple will be pressured into offering such a tool. Carriers certainly have a lot of power, but in their relationship with Apple, they aren’t the ones that do the pushing around.