TIME Google

Google’s Best App Just Got Better

Sundar Pichai, senior vice-president of Products for Google Inc., speaks during the Google I/O Annual Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, May 28, 2014. Google Inc. executives are taking the stage this week to talk about a plethora of new technologies, including automobiles, home automation, digital TV, Web-connected devices and a new version of Android. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Sundar Pichai
David Paul Morris—© 2015 Bloomberg Finance LP Sundar Pichai, senior vice-president of Products for Google Inc., speaks during the Google I/O Annual Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, May 28, 2014.

Google Now is expanding its context-sensitive suggestions across multiple apps

Google is looking to expand the functionality of its sophisticated digital assistant Google Now.

A new functionality called Now on Tap, announced Thursday at Google’s annual I/O developers conference, will bring Now’s context-sensitive information and suggestions to many of the apps users commonly open on their Android devices.

Google showed off the versatility of Now on Tap in a series of demos. While listening to Skrillex in a music player, a Googler asked, “OK Google, what’s his real name?” and Now on Tap was able to use the context of the open app to immediately recognize that the user was referring to Skrillex and serve the correct answer (Sonny John Moore). In another example, when a person received a series of text messages suggesting dinner at a nearby restaurant and a request to pick up drying cleaning, Now on Tap was able to scan the contents of the messages to pull up info about the restaurant and offer to set a reminder about a dry cleaning. In a third example, as a user was reading an email that mentioned the movie Tomorrowland, they were able to bring up an info card with the movie’s trailers, review scores and cast list immediately available by simply pressing the phone’s home button.

Google Now has quickly become a large focus of the search giant, as it leverages many of the company’s strengths (trawling the web for facts and providing accurate navigation info, for instance) to create a streamlined user experience. Apple is rumored to be working on a similar service, code-named Proactive.

TIME Google

Google’s Secret to Doubling Your Phone’s Battery Life

An attendee takes a photograph prior to the Google I/O Annual Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, May 28, 2014. Google Inc. executives are taking the stage this week to talk about a plethora of new technologies, including automobiles, home automation, digital TV, Web-connected devices and a new version of Android. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
David Paul Morris—© 2015 Bloomberg Finance LP An attendee takes a photograph prior to the Google I/O Annual Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, May 28, 2014.

New version of Android shuts down processes in certain apps to stem battery drain

Google is aiming to give your phones and tablets a little more juice to make it through the day without dying.

At its annual I/O developers conference Thursday, the company announced a new power-conservation feature in its upcoming mobile operating system Android M. Called “Doze,” the new feature uses motion sensors to detect when a device hasn’t been moved for an extended period. Android will then automatically shut down processes for certain power-hogging apps, which should significantly extend the device’s battery life.

When testing the feature, Google said a Nexus 9 tablet running Doze on Android M had a battery life twice as long as the same device using the older Android L operating system.

The new feature won’t turn your phone into a total paperweight. Users will still be alerted to alarms and high-priority messages even when the phone or tablet is dozing.

TIME Media

HBO’s New Streaming Service Is Coming to Android

San Francisco Premiere Of HBO's "Game Of Thrones" Season 5 - Red Carpet
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau attends the premiere of HBO's 'Game of Thrones' Season 5 at San Francisco Opera House on March 23, 2015 in San Francisco, California.

Standalone streaming service will be available in Google Play store

HBO’s standalone streaming service is coming to Google devices.

The search giant announced at its annual I/O developers conference Thursday that HBO Now will soon be available for Android devices in the Google Play store.

HBO Now was originally announced as a timed exclusive for Apple TV and iOS. But it was always a given that the service would eventually expand to other devices. Now users of Android phones, tablets and set-top boxes will be able to stream shows like Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley at the same time as they are broadcast on television without the need for a cable subscription. The service costs $14.99 per month.

In other streaming news, Google revealed that its Chromecast device has sold 17 million units so far. Users have pressed the cast button to stream content onto various screens more than 1.5 billion times.

TIME Apple

Everything We Know About Apple’s New iPhone Software

Get ready for split-screen views, transit routes and lowkey shade delivered via iMessage

The next version of Apple’s mobile operating system is almost here.

The company is expected to unveil iOS 9 at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June. A new iOS update isn’t quite a big deal as a new iPhone, but the announcements can often be substantial–iOS 7 brought us a completely revamped mobile interface, while iOS 8 featured a health activity tracker and improved predictive keyboard.

Here’s what’s rumored to be in the works for Apple’s iOS 9:

A New Font

Apple is reportedly planning to dump the Helvetica font it’s been using since iOS 8 in favor of a San Francisco font that’s currently in use on the Apple Watch. The font was chosen for Apple Watch specifically because it’s readable on small screens.

A “Home” app for connected devices

In iOS 8 Apple added HomeKit, a framework that helps users control connected devices in their home. Now the company is working on a user-friendly app called “Home” that will let users more easily control disparate devices from a single interface. Among the features rumored to be part of the Home app are virtual rooms that let users easily detect which parts of their house have which connected devices. However, 9to5Mac warns that the featureset so far is fairly limited so the app may not be ready for a public debut in June.

Improved Apple Maps

Apple is finally planning to add subway and bus routes to its Maps app, a feature that’s been available in Google Maps for years. The initial rollout may be limited to just a handful of cities globally, including New York and San Francisco. The company is also using Roomba-sized robots to develop indoor maps of buildings and landmarks, though that feature won’t necessarily be ready for iOS 9.

Dual-app viewing for iPad

Apple wants to give iPads the ability to run two apps side-by-side. The split-screen functionality is already available in tablets by Samsung and Microsoft, so it would be a welcome addition to Apple’s device. The new mode could allow users to resize an app to take up one-third, one-half or two-thirds of the screen.

The iPhone 4S may still be supported

The iPhone 4S is close to four years old, which is an eternity in the world of mobile tech. However, Apple is expected to continue supporting the still-popular device with iOS 9. In fact, according to 9to5Mac, Apple is changing its software development process to ensure that iOS 9 runs better on old iPhones and iPads than iOS 8 did.

Contact-specific read receipts

Passive-aggressive texters, rejoice! Apple is apparently tweaking iMessage to let you choose which of your contacts you share read receipts with. Drake is probably really excited.

A Google Now Competitor

Apple may be planning to expand its digital assistant capabilities beyond Siri with a new personalized interface code-named Proactive. The menu, which would likely be located left of the main home screen, would integrate information from a user’s calendar, Passbook and other apps to provide daily itineraries. Proactive could remind you to call your mother each week for instance, or automatically pull up directions to your office each morning. The similarity is similar to Google Now, which is available for Android phones.

TIME Retail

Target CEO Would ‘Love’ to Have Apple Pay

Christmas Shopping Season is Underway
Scott Olson—Getty Images A clerk rings up sales for a customer at a Target store November 30, 2004 in Chicago, Illinois.

But first, retailer must finish transition to more secure credit card system

Apple Pay may soon be coming to a Target store near you.

Target CEO Brian Cornell told Recode that he’s been in discussions with Apple chief Tim Cook about adding the digital payment system at the physical retailer (Target already supports Apple Pay for online purchases).

However, before that happens, Target plans to outfit its stores with systems capable of reading chip and PIN cards. Chip and PIN is a technology common in Europe that stores credit cards’ data in an embedded computer chip rather than on a magnetic stripe, an innovation that helps boost security. Retailers that don’t have chip and PIN terminals available will become liable for credit card fraud that occurs at their stores later this year, so it’s no wonder Target’s head is making that upgrade a top priority.

Getting Target on board will be another big win for Apple Pay, which has been steadily recruiting new retailers since launching in October. Best Buy began supporting Apple Pay in its iOS app in April and pledged to support the payment system in its physical stores later this year.

TIME Smartphones

This Phone Has a New Trick You Wouldn’t Expect

Typing will never be the same

Lenovo has unveiled a new smartphone that doubles as a laser projector.

The Smart Cast features a built-in projector that can cast images large enough to turn a wall into a movie screen. The device also recognizes hand gestures, so users can cast a keyboard on a flat table and type away.

In a video demo, Lenovo showed off the Smart Cast being used to play music on virtual piano keys displayed on a tabletop and to slice through the mobile game Fruit Ninja on a wall.

No word yet on a price or release date for the device, which is just a concept product for now. While other smartphones have sported built-in projectors before, the Smart Cast uses a different projection technology, Engadget reports.

TIME Autos

Everything You Need to Know About Android Auto

Android Auto
Raymond Boyd/Getty Images 2015 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T at the 107th Annual Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois on FEBRUARY 13, 2015.

Reviewers say it trounces old-school in-car navigation systems

Google’s operating system for cars has finally arrived. Android Auto, which lets drivers control popular smartphone apps through their car’s dashboard interface, is now available in the 2015 Hyundai Sonata and will be rolled out to additional vehicles in the future.

Here are the key insights from reviewers at The Verge and the Wall Street Journal who have taken Android Auto for a test drive.

Android Auto truly replaces your phone

While driving, Google wants you to put your phone away completely and rely on Android Auto to make phone calls, get directions, queue up music and even send texts. Drivers are locked out of their smartphones while the device is connected to Android Auto. Apps like Maps are as fully-featured through the car as they are on a smartphone (though you can’t look up walking or transit directions).

You’ll be doing a lot of talking

In order to increase driver safety, Android Auto encourages people to use voice commands instead of having drivers type information. You can simply speak to ask Android Auto for directions or to place a call. The app itself is pretty talky as well. For instance, it will read aloud text messages you receive and also read back texts that you dictate before you send them off to friends.

Music is at your fingertips

Listening to music is one of the most common activities in the car, and it’s a key part of Anroid Auto. Currently compatible services include Google Play Music, Spotify and iHeartRadio (Pandora isn’t currently supported). Users can use voice search to find songs or artists, though reviewers said the feature worked much better with Google Play Music than with third-party apps. There’s also a quirk that limits how far drivers can scroll through a playlist in order to prevent long periods of distraction from the road, so it would be hard to comb through a whole music library using the app.

Your car is now your personal assistant

In addition to expected features like navigation and music playback, Android Auto makes use of Google’s digital assistant Google Now to offer context-sensitive suggestions for getting through your day. The app may present navigation directions to your office when you get in the car in the morning, for example, or present the route home when you boot up the car in the evening.

Overall, reviewers tended to agree that Android Auto is a big step up from the clunky navigation systems that have become standard in many new cars. With Apple’s CarPlay also planned to roll out to more vehicles soon, expect the smartphone to soon become a standard tool for in-car navigation and communication.

TIME mergers

Everything You Need to Know About Merger Mastermind John Malone

The deal-maker had a hand in creating the cable industry itself, now he's at it again

Once known as the King of Cable, John Malone helped introduce pay-TV to the masses in the ’70s and ’80s. Now the media mogul, who serves as the chairman of the conglomerate Liberty Media, is helping orchestrate a merger between Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications. (Liberty Media owns the largest stake in Charter.) If approved by regulators, the combined cable and broadband giant would serve almost 24 million total customers, making it nearly as large as industry leader Comcast, which has 27 million subscribers. Here’s everything you need to know about Malone.

Claims to Fame: After an early stint as a researcher at Bell Labs, a 32-year-old Malone became the CEO of a struggling cable operator called Tele-Communications Inc, or TCI, in 1973. By the 1980s TCI was the largest pay-TV operator in the United States, wiring millions of Americans’ homes for cable for the first time. He sold the company to AT&T for $55 billion in 1999, then turned his attention to his role as chairman of Liberty Media, where his investments have ranged from Charter to Sirius XM to the Atlanta Braves.

Current Challenges: The cable industry Malone helped build is losing subscribers because of online competitors such as Netflix and Hulu, which let customers stream their favorite television shows whenever they want on any device. Costs are also on the rise as networks charge ever-increasing fees to carry their content—ESPN alone now charges cable companies more than $6 per subscriber.

Biggest Champion: Charter and Time Warner Cable CEOs Tom Rutledge and Rob Marcus. Rutledge, who has been a vocal proponent of consolidation as a way to protect the cable industry’s future, would remain the head of the newly expanded Charter. Marcus, who has been trying to sell Time Warner Cable since he took on the top role at the company last year, could receive more than $61 million in severance pay.

Biggest Obstacle: The Federal Communications Commission, which forced Comcast to scuttle its own plans for a merger with Time Warner Cable in April. Regulators worried that the expanded Comcast would have too much control of the broadband Internet market.

Can He Do It? Malone’s merger has a better shot than Comcast’s because a combined Charter and Time Warner Cable still wouldn’t control a majority of the broadband market. And Malone is as skilled in the dark art tax-saving acquisitions and spinoffs as they come—in addition to being anointed the king, some have called him the Darth Vader of cable.

Vital Stats

74: Malone’s Age

$55 Billion: Money in cash and stock Charter will pay to buy Time Warner Cable

$8.6 billion: Malone’s net worth, according to Forbes

2.2 million acres: Amount of land Malone owns, making him the largest landowner in the U.S. (For more on Malone’s holdings, check out this Fortune story.)

TIME Companies

Apple’s Design Guru Just Got a Big Promotion

Jonathan Ive gets a new title

Jonathan Ive is taking on an even more important role at Apple. The design mastermind behind the look of the iPhone and the iPad will be promoted from senior vice president of design to the newly created position of chief design officer, CEO Tim Cook said in a memo to staff.

“Jony is one of the most talented and accomplished designers of his generation, with an astonishing 5000 design and utility patents to his name,” Cook said in the memo, obtained by 9to5Mac. “His new role is a reflection of the scope of work he has been doing at Apple for some time.”

Ive is already responsible for overseeing the physical look of Apple products as well as the design of the company’s software. In his expanded role, he’ll have more time to focus his design expertise on other parts of Apple’s empire, such as its Apple Stores, the physical packaging of its products and even the design of its massive new spaceship-shaped headquarters, which is set to open by 2017.

In an interview in the Telegraph, which first reported the promotion, Ive revealed that one of the touches he’s added to the new campus is custom-designed desks that can be raised or lowered with the press of a button.

Freeing up Ive to do more big-picture thinking will be two men taking on some his previous day-to-day managerial duties. Richard Howarth is being promoted to vice president of industrial design and Alan Dye will become the vice president of user interface design. The changes take place on July 1.

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