FCC may be forced to suspend most operations this week – CNET

Partial federal government shutdown to blame.

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Android through the ages: the history of Google’s smartphone OS

In the beginning there was Cupcake

2008, when pinch-to-zoom was a right reserved for iPhones and BlackBerrys were still the business, a new kind of smartphone hit the scene: the Android smartphone. 

Starting at version 1.5 for public consumption, Android was launched on the HTC Dream (known as the T-Mobile G1 in the US), a QWERTY keyboard-packing slider phone. Based on a modified version of Linux, Android offered something very different to the iPhone: freedom.

Android 1.5 screen shots

An open source Cupcake

Unlike iOS’s heavily policed, locked-down operating system, Android arrived with the promise of open source everything. Google made access to the Android Market (now called the Google Play Store) freely available, and users could even customize their home screens with widgets, offering in-app functionality from said home screen, no app opening needed.

With Android 1.5, codenamed Cupcake, a new way was born. 

Android 1.6: Donut

Is it an albatross? Is it a jumbo jet? No! It’s the Dell Streak!

Version 1.6 of Android, Doughnut was announced in 2009, and it’s the update we have to blame for today’s giant phones that don’t quite fit in normal-sized pockets.

While Android tablets hadn’t quite taken off by this point, Donut was a step ahead, laying the foundations for the ‘phablet’, and introducing support for more screen sizes than Cupcake.

Big screens ahoy!

The aforementioned 5-inch Dell Streak, for example, despite being small by today’s standards, was a veritable beast when it was launched, and it owed its big screen to advances Donut introduced. 

Other innovative features introduced in Android 1.6 included a text-to-speech engine, universal search and a more complete battery usage screen, so you knew which apps were draining your smartphone dry.

Android 2.0: Eclair

Android 2.0 Eclair

Who knew there was ever a time when you couldn’t have multiple Google accounts on your Android smartphone? We did! 

Eclair, named for the choux pastry French patisserie staple, remedied account limitations and more.

Multi-touch me

But multiple accounts wasn’t the highlight feature of Android 2.0 – oh no. Eclair finally introduced multi-touch to smartphones that weren’t made by Apple (although that created  something of a hoo-ha in itself.)

Take a picture, open it up, pinch to zoom… Android and iOS were in a two-horse race now, and Android was catching up.

Eclair also introduced Google Maps navigation, as well as additional camera modes, live wallpapers and Bluetooth 2.1 support.

Android 2.2: Froyo

Froyo, aka frozen yoghurt, is confectionary number four, and Android version 2.2. Loaded up on classic phones like the Samsung Galaxy S2 and the HTC Incredible S, it marked the point at which Android hardware started to feel more premium, finally doing justice to the OS inside – from Super AMOLED screens bettering the LCDs of iPhones through to excellent industrial design from the likes of HTC.

Get some Froyo on that hotspot

Version 2.2 also introduced a feature that could make Android phones more attractive than iPhones for the everyday user – Froyo’s most practical highlight was most definitely mobile Wi-Fi hotspotting.

While Windows phones had Bluetooth and USB hotspot tools before, the idea of using high-speed Wi-Fi tethering to share your phone’s (then blazingly fast) 3G data with a laptop or even another smartphone was vindication for Android fans the world over.

Apple would take a full year to get the feature onto iPhones, with many carriers still blocking iPhone tethering for some time to come. 

Android 2.3: Gingerbread

Android 2.3 gingerbread

Android Gingerbread didn’t get a new look or feel compared to Froyo, but it did get a host of new features, including support for new sensors, including NFC. Other highlights included internet calling and a new download manager – but none of those were our highlights.

Copy, paste, catch up with Apple

Oh no – our highlight was the seemingly rudimentary and long-overdue copy and paste feature that was giving iPhones the text-editing edge over Androids for over a year: single word selection. 

Before Gingerbread, Android copying was clumsy, given the fact that only entire text boxes could be selected. 2010 saw Google closing the gap, with a long press over a word selecting just that word, and displaying a pop-up menu that included copy and paste options, just like we have on Android phones today. 

Android 3.0: Honeycomb

Remember the Motorola Xoom? No, not the Microsoft Zune – we’re talking about the Motorola tablet that introduced Google’s tablet version of Android, codenamed Honeycomb.

The most striking difference between it and any version of Android we'd seen before was the interface. Introducing ‘Holographic’ UI elements, Google went a bit Tron here – all illuminated lines, gradient halo highlights around objects – and while it didn’t look timeless, it did look cool.

On-screen navigation, the shape of things to come…

Android phones today seldom sport hardware navigation buttons; that’s to say, the back, home and recent apps buttons are in a navigation bar at the bottom of the screen on the biggest phones out now – the Google Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy S9 and Huawei Mate 20 for example.

Funnily enough, we don’t have a mobile OS to thank for this – it was first introduced in Honeycomb, with the back, home and recent apps buttons displayed in the bottom-left of the home screen.

Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

So long physical buttons, hello unified Android typeface!

Ice Cream Sandwich was probably one of the richest updates Android has seen. Available on the Galaxy Nexus and HTC One X, it brought an excellent in-gallery photo editor to the table, as well as a data limiter within the settings. 

The whole look and feel was refined, in line with Honeycomb’s design direction, and it delivered a much richer experience than Android 2.3..

Swipe to dismiss

In hindsight, probably the most pervasive feature introduced in this version was the swipe to dismiss gesture. 

While it had been used by other smartphone manufacturers before, getting Android users comfortable with this little swipe gesture ensured its rise to ubiquity.

Swipe to dismiss interaction has since, for example, shaped email and text message handling, influenced Windows 10’s touchscreen notification management, and is a fundamental component of everyone’s favorite dating app, Tinder.

Android 4.1: Jelly Bean

Android 4.1 jelly bean

Jelly Bean was a tale of three parts: 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3.

4.1 was all about refinements. It took Ice Cream Sandwich and made it smoother, introduced improved support for multiple languages, and automatically resized widgets to fit your home screen.

Android 4.2 was a further refinement, this time polishing the look and feel, making for an excellent-looking tablet UI, showcased well on the Nexus 10, complete with Miracast wireless display projection support.

The final episode – Return of the Jelly Bean, if you will – was a corker for developers, giving them tools to improve UI smoothness, use the latest version of Bluetooth and restrict profiles on devices with multiple user accounts – handy for parents and businesses alike. 

Expandable notifications

Our Jelly Bean highlight? Dragging down with two fingers for expanded notifications. This feature gave users a peak into the details of their most recent updates. So, if your notification read '3 new tweets', a two-finger drag down would expand the notification and showcase who those tweets were from, with a snippet of the message itself. 

Simple, and still in Android today. 

Android 4.4: KitKat

Android 4.4 Kitkat

Emojis on the Google Keyboard, lower RAM requirements paving the way for budget Android phones, and NFC security being bumped up to help make mobile payments a reality – all this and more was loaded inside the Android 4.4 KitKat update.

'Okay Google, will this ever catch on?'

But it was Google Now becoming a voice assistant that blazed the trail for today’s world of talkative phone assistants and smart speakers.

The always-on microphone and 'OK Google' command were introduced alongside KitKat in October 2013, harnessing the power of Google Search.

It paved the way for Apple's Siri, set to follow in June 2014, and the two-horse mobile OS race was about to splinter into separate smartphone and a voice assistant contests, with Google making the early running.

Android 5.0: Lollipop

Android 5.0 Lollipop

Material Design, Google’s flatter interface that features fewer gradients and a cleaner look than Jelly Bean, debuted on Android 5.0. 

Support for 64-bit architecture was also introduced, helping Android achieve near-parity with desktop operating systems when it came to power potential, as was improved notification handling on lock screens.

Setting the scene for wearables

But the hidden gem within Android Lollipop was support for Bluetooth LE, or low energy. 

This feature meant that wearable technology could finally exist without draining your phone’s battery dry. With lower battery demands, Bluetooth LE also enabled manufacturers to create smartwatches and fitness trackers with low-capacity batteries, small enough to fit inside a device that looked good and which could be worn comfortably. 

Android 6.0: Marshmallow

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Launching on the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P, these Marshmallow devices introduced USB-C ports and fingerprint scanners to the Nexus line.

As for the software, app security was tightened up with element-specific permissions prompting users to grant access to apps that needed to use things like their camera, phone etc.

Android 6.0 also supported MicroSD card integration into internal storage – handy for phones with under 16GB storage, though this feature has since been removed.

Doze mode

For a second time in a row, a battery saving feature is our Android highlight.

If you left your Marshmallow phone unplugged and stationary for a period of time with the screen off, apps go into standby and Doze mode is activated

This saved battery power and cemented Android as the operating system to go for if you wanted the battery edge, with Android hardware packing higher capacity batteries than iPhones, and its software optimised to take advantage of them.

Android 7.0: Nougat

Android 7.0 Nougat

Quick app switching by double-tapping the recent apps key, gender and race-specific emojis, separate home and lock screen wallpapers… Android Nougat made things both more functional and more attractive, but it also borrowed something from Samsung.

Split-screen multitasking

Having introduced split-screen multitasking on its Note line, Samsung was ahead of the curve. Google lifted the experience, and made it part of stock Android 7 over a year later, allowing one half of the screen to be used for one app, and the other half for another.

Google did do some cool stuff with the feature – Android 7 offered split-screen handling of two Chrome tabs for example, and even supported dragging and dropping of an image file across tabs. 

Android 8.0: Oreo

Android 8.0 Oreo

Shiny new battery menus and notification dots on app icons – Android Oreo brought with it a slew of refinements to the UI, not to mention better storage management, with a new file browser and more granular storage control within the settings.

Floating videos are cool, right?

But the highlight feature everybody wanted, and never ended up using when it launched, was picture-in-picture, another feature introduced by Samsung and later adopted by Google for stock Android. 

This little floating video window showcases a video in your UI, so you can get on with Twitter scrolling without having to stop watching your favorite show.

While initially it was awkward to activate and, frankly, a bit useless, now it’s reaching fruition, with apps like Netflix, WhatsApp and YouTube having adopted support for it.

Android 9.0: Pie

Android 9.0 Pie

We’re finally all caught up. Google’s 2018/19 build of Android, Android 9.0, aka Pie, is the freshest version shipping on the latest and greatest hardware, including the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.

Loaded up with notch support, improved battery smarts and a revamped UI, complete with iPhone X-esque navigations, Android Pie is gearing Google smartphones up for their impending all-screen, bezel-free futures.

A side serving of social responsibility 

Digital Wellbeing is a suite of services available in Beta right now as part of the Android P update. Including elements like a dashboard to help you better understand your app usage, it’s all about using your phone a bit less, or at least a bit more mindfully.

Additional tools range from app limiters through to a grayscale mode to give your eyes a break, as well as a wind-down feature, to help you disconnect at the end of a working day. 

With Google having iterated over 14 versions of Android, servicing more than two billion users, it’s a fitting conclusion to the current chapter that the big G has shifted focus to Digital Wellbeing, given the operating system’s vast reach.

Q is for… ?

But what about the shape of things to come? Android 10 will likely drop in the second half of 2019, and we already know it’s coming to the new Essential Phone.

As for its name, the distinct lack of confectionaries beginning with the letter ‘Q’ is keeping everyone guessing. Keep checking in with TechRadar throughout 2019 for the latest updates on Android Q, and to find out more about Pie, read our Android 9.0 overview. 

  • Brought to you in association with Nokia and Android One, helping you to make more of your smartphone. You can learn more about the new Nokia 7.1 here, and you'll find more great advice on getting the most from your phone here. 

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Tesla is keeping 44 U.S. stores open until midnight in year-end Model 3 sales push

Some Tesla employees will ring in the New Year on a sales floor this year as the automaker tries to liquidate its inventory of Model 3 sedans — and even its more expensive Model S and Model X vehicles — before the federal tax credit for EVs is cut in half.

In a list of updated hours, 44 of the stores, including locations in California, Minnesota, Nevada, New York and Ohio, are open until midnight Monday. Tesla has more than 100 stores and galleries in the United States. Calls made to several of these stores indicate these locations have a mix of Model 3 sedans available for pickup today. Sales associates didn’t provide specific numbers.

After midnight Monday, the $7,500 federal electric vehicle tax credit will drop to $3,750 for anyone buying a Tesla vehicle.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been using Twitter to warn of the expiring tax credit for months now. Recently, the pace of promotion has escalated as Tesla’s inventory of Model 3 vehicles in the U.S. has persisted.

The company reportedly had more than 3,300 Model 3 vehicles in inventory in the U.S. as of Sunday, according a blog post by Electrek.

Now with just hours left before the federal tax credit drops, Tesla and Musk are making a special effort to reduce the Model 3 inventory in a final sales push.

Earlier this year, Tesla hit a milestone when it delivered its 200,000th electric vehicle. The achievement was a noteworthy occasion for an automaker that didn’t exist 15 years ago. However, it also activated a countdown for the $7,500 federal tax credit offered to consumers who buy new electric vehicles.

The tax credit begins to phase out once a manufacturer has sold 200,000 qualifying vehicles in the U.S. Under these rules, Tesla customers have to take delivery of their new Model S, Model X or Model 3 by December 31.

After December 31, the federal tax credit is cut in half to $3,750 for new Tesla customers. The tax credit is reduced again after June 30 to $1,875 before disappearing altogether at the end of next year.

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Noa’s new Alexa skill has human narrators read news from NYT, FT, Economist & others

News junkies who want something more in-depth than Alexa’s Flash Briefing now have a new option for listening to the day’s news – as well as features and other reporting – right from their smart speaker. A company called Noa has just launched an Alexa skill that uses human narrators to read you the news from top publishers like The New York Times, Financial Times, The Economist, and others. With the skill, you can catch up on the stories you missed while you’re doing other things – like cooking, cleaning, commuting or exercising, for example.

The skill is aimed at those who already enjoy listening to longer-form audio, like podcasts or talk radio, on their Amazon Echo or other Alexa-powered device.

The use case here is also similar to that of “read it later” apps like Pocket or Instapaper, both of which have added an audio playback option for listening to your saved articles. However, those apps currently rely on text-to-speech functionality, not on human narration.

Noa, meanwhile, employs a team of half a dozen narrators based across the U.S., U.K., and Ireland who read the stories published by the company’s current partners. These include The New York Times, Financial Times, Business Insider, The Economist, The Independent, Bloomberg, The Irish Times, and the Evening Standard.

That list will grow in 2019 to include more news organizations and magazine partners, the company says.

To use the skill, you must first enable it on your Alexa device by saying, “Alexa, enable Noa.” (It’s pronounced like the “Noah” from the Bible with the Ark.)

You can then ask Noa to read the news by published, journalist or category.

For example, you can say “Alexa, open Noa and play ‘The New York Times;’” or “Alexa, ask Noa to play Tim Bradshaw;” or “Alexa, open Noa and play ‘Technology.” 

Not all articles from the publisher partners will be available, explains Noa CEO Gareth Hickey.

“Only a limited subset of articles lend themselves well to audio – namely, the opinion and feature style stories.  Essentially longer-form journalism,” he says.

The skill also employs a metered-access paywall that allows listeners to stream up to ten articles per week for free. To listen to more, you have to subscribe at $7.99 per month (or €/£7.99 per month, depending on location) for unlimited access. The company doesn’t currently support Amazon Pay, so you’ll have to sign up at Noa’s website or through its mobile apps, if you want to upgrade.

The Alexa skill is the latest from the Dublin-based startup Noa, founded in 2015 by Hickey and Shane Ennis, with the goal of providing access to audio journalism.

“While audio-journalism is a core part of our offering, personalised discovery and quality curation are equally as important,” Hickey says. “The goal isn’t to inundate users with audio articles, but instead to help them learn and understand the news,” he adds.

Given Noa’s focus on audio, smart speakers make sense as the next big platform to address – especially now that they’ve reached critical mass. The startup raised $600,000 last year, Hickey notes. 

The Alexa skill itself is called “Noa – Journalism, narrated,” and is free to install and use for up to 10 articles per week.

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Netflix stops paying the ‘Apple tax’ on its $853M in annual iOS revenue

Earlier this year, Netflix was seen testing a bypass of iTunes billing across dozens of markets worldwide. As 2018 draws to a close, Netflix – the App Store’s top grossing app – has ditched the ability for new users to sign up and subscribe to the streaming service within its iOS app across all global markets. The change means Apple will miss out on hundreds of millions in App Store revenue per year – money it would have otherwise received by way of its standard cut of in-app transactions.

According to new data compiled by Sensor Tower, Netflix grossed $853 million in 2018 on the iOS App Store. Based on that figure, Apple’s take would have been around $256 million, the firm said.

To date, the Netflix iOS app has generated over $1.5 billion through its in-app subscriptions, with Apple’s cut coming in around $450 million-plus, Sensor Tower estimated.

Before the change, Netflix on iOS was grossing an average of $2.4 million per day in 2018 – meaning Apple was making around $700,000 by doing nothing other than allowing Netflix to offer subscriptions in its app.

(Note, however, that Sensor Tower’s figures are based on the App Store’s 30 percent cut of transactions. After the first year, Apple’s cut on subscription renewals is lowered to 15 percent. That’s not being factored in. But it gives you a rough idea of Apple’s losses here.)

Netflix’s iOS revenue has been climbing steadily over the years.

In 2017 its gross subscriber revenue was $510 million – up from $215 million users spent in the app in 2016 – which earned it the No. 1 spot on the Top Grossing Chart for non-game apps. It snagged that position again this year, trailed by Tinder and Tencent Video.

In fact, Netflix has earned the bragging rights for being the top grossing iOS App of all time, App Annie reported this summer.

The streaming service’s decision to bypass the App Store isn’t a first. Many companies today direct their users to the web or other platforms, in order to avoid marketplace fees.

For example, Amazon has historically restricted movie and TV rentals and purchases to its own website or other “compatible” apps, instead of allowing them to take place through its Prime Video app. The same goes for Kindle e-books, which also aren’t offered in the Kindle mobile app. Spotify also discontinued the option to pay for its Premium service using Apple’s in-app payment system.

And Epic Games this year bypassed Google’s Play Store altogether – as well as its 30 percent cut – when it launched Fortnite for Android as a sideloaded app. That decision resulted in Google’s loss of $50 million+ in marketplaces fees.

Netflix earlier this year had dropped in-app subscription sign-ups in its Android app on Google Play. That signaled its intentions to later take back the so-called “Apple tax” for itself, too.

However, Netflix still earns money on Google Play through existing subscribers. That totalled around $105 million in 2018, with Google earning close to $32 million of that. But the number has been declining consistently, Sensor Tower said. Apple could soon be in the same boat.

VentureBeat was the first to notice the change to the Netflix iOS app. It would be surprising if Apple took action against Netflix, given it has not done so with other major tech companies that made similar moves.




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