From Sameer Samat, VP of Product Management Android and Google Play
Today, Google is officially introducing Android 8.0 Oreo, the latest release of the platform–and it’s smarter, faster and more powerful than ever. It comes with new features like picture-in-picture and Autofill to help you navigate tasks seamlessly. Plus, it’s got stronger security protections and speed improvements that keep you safe and moving at lightspeed. When you’re on your next adventure, Android Oreo is the superhero to have by your side (or in your pocket!).
Android Oreo, to the rescue!
Ever try checking your schedule while staying on a video call? Android Oreo makes it easy with picture-in-picture, letting you see two apps at once: it’s like having the power to be in two places at the same time! Overwhelmed by notifications, but missing the ones you care about the most? With Android Oreo, notification dots let you tap to see what’s new in your apps — like the important ones you put on your home screen — and then take action on those notifications quickly.
Evildoers trying to get bad software onto your device? Android Oreo is more secure with Google Play Protect built in, security status front and center in settings, and tighter app install controls.
Battery depleted and still galaxies away from a charger? Been there, too. Android Oreo helps minimize unintentional overuse of battery from apps in the background; these limits keep your battery going longer.
When you’re on the go, speed is perhaps the most important superpower. With Android Oreo, you can get started on tasks more quickly than ever with a faster boot speed (up to twice as fast on Pixel, in fact). Once you’re powered up, Autofillon Android Oreo remembers things like logins (with your permission) to quickly get you into your favorite apps. Plus, support for Android Instant Apps means you can teleport directly into new apps, no installation needed.
League of extraordinary emojis
Even superheroes don’t go it alone. Android Oreo brings along a team of fully-redesigned emojis, including new emoji to help save the day like:
Coming to a device near you
We’re pushing the sources to Android Open Source Project (AOSP) for everyone to access today. Pixel and Nexus 5X/6P builds have entered carrier testing, and we expect to start rolling out in phases soon, alongside Pixel C and Nexus Player. We’ve also been working closely with our partners, and by the end of this year, hardware makers including Essential, General Mobile, HMD Global Home of Nokia Phones, Huawei, HTC, Kyocera, LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sharp and Sony are scheduled to launch or upgrade devices to Android 8.0 Oreo. Any devices enrolled in the Android Beta Program will also receive this final version. You can learn more at android.com/oreo.
There’s no denying that Google Home and Amazon Echo (or the less-expensive Echo Dot, if you’re not using it for music) have changed the way we interact with our homes. Turning on the lights has never been easier, nor has it been simpler to field the latest traffic report or order delivery for dinner. The future is here, and we’re reveling in it!
But the proliferation of these devices around our homes leaves room for error. Google’s and Amazon’s connected speakers must always listen for us to utter their magic “wake” words—OK Google or Alexa respectively—in order to perform their tasks. If you don’t configure them properly, you might see random purchases show up at your door.
It happened in San Diego when a little girl asked Alexa to deliver her a “dollhouse and some cookies.” She knew the right words to say, and in a few days’ time, she had her goodies. (If you want to have some fun, watch this news clip near your Alexa-powered device and watch it light up.)
If you’re worried about family members, roommates, or pranksters making unwanted purchases on your account, you can either disable this feature altogether, or set up your Google Home or Amazon Echo so that it buys things only after you’ve specifically authorized the purchase. Here’s how.
Google Home isn’t tied to one of the world’s largest online retailers, so you might think there’s less of a risk of unintended purchases. But it does provide voice-payment capabilities for Google Express, which allows you to purchase products from participating retailers such as Costco, Target, and Toys ‘R Us.
The payments setting is disabled by default in the Google Home app. If you’d enabled it previously and have since changed your mind, it’s easy to turn off. Just log into the Home app on your Android or iOS device, tap the hamburger menu, and choose “More settings.” Tap “Payments” on the next screen. Delete everything you see there. It’s the easiest way to ensure no one in your household can run rampant with your payment information on file. Alternatively, you can simply tick the “Pay through your Assistant” option so that it’s off and unselected.
How to enable purchases on Google Home
If you want to start—or restart—making payments with voice commands, open the Google Home app, tap the menu button, and then tap on Payments. Here you can set up a delivery address and a primary payment method. Google will automatically pull in any payment data previously associated with your account (and prompt you to update any expired or out-of-date cards). The app will ll also ask if you want to grant access to any Google Home devices you have set up in your home.
Once you’ve set that up, you can order things through Google Home by saying phrases such as “OK Google, order paper towels.” Google Home will list options for relevant items and their accompanying prices. Then, you can accept the order to place it officially.
You can even ask, “OK Google, how do I shop?” for a helpful walkthrough of the process. For other services, such as Domino’s pizza delivery, the payment information is set up separately through that company’s Easy Order, which fires up the oven right after you place your order. (This works with the Echo as well.)
Disabling purchasing on the Amazon Echo, Dot, Tap, and Show
Amazon’s smart speakers are quickly becoming smart-home workhorses, but they could also be considered Trojan horses aimed at capturing more and more of your shopping dollars.Here’s how to disable—and then re-enable—purchasing power with an Amazon Echo, Dot, Tap, or Show.
If you’ve previously enabled payments any of your Amazon Echos and want to now disable it, just launch the Alexa app on your smartphone or tablet. If you have more than one device in the Echo family, you’ll need scroll past all of them—and past the blue “Set up a new device” button—until you reach the “Voice Purchasing” button. Click on the radio button to disable this feature. You’re done.
How to enable purchases via the Amazon Echo
Under Settings, scroll down to “Voice Purchasing.” Tap to enable “Purchase by voice.” It’s a good idea to set up a confirmation code at this point. It willl ensure no one can order things without your permission unless they know the code. Below that, you can select to manage your 1-Click payment settings, which selects which of your bank cards to use when the purchasing happens.
When you’re ready to buy something, you can ask Alexa to order anything from Amazon—physical as well as digital goods. If you’re listening to a song, for example, you can ask Amazon to purchase the MP3 with your payment information on file. Or if you’re in need of toilet paper, you can ask Alexa to send it over with two-day shipping.
If you’re stuck, or maybe a little shy, ask Alexa how to shop and it’ll walk you through what it can do.
When in doubt, mute it
If all else fails and your neighboring dwellers are still managing to make errant purchases, you can either unplug the device or mute it. The latter is particularly effective if you have children coming over who find it amusing to summon virtual assistants.
Then again, who doesn’t? It’s why we use our voices to buy things, after all, simply because we can.
Florence reports on all the latest Android and smart home gear for PCWorld, Greenbot and TechHive. Follow her on Twitter at @ohthatflo.
If there’s one criticism of the Galaxy S8 (aside from the terrible placement of the fingerprint sensor), it’s that it’s a little too fragile. So if you’ve held off on buying because you’re afraid of breaking it, the Galaxy S8 Active is here to quell your fears.
The Galaxy S8 Active is essentially same phone as the Galaxy S8—5.8-inch Super AMOLED display, Snapdragon 835 chip, and a 12MP camera—but it’s outfitted to withstand a beating. Unlike the regular S8’s all-glass body, the S8 Active is constructed using “military-grade materials” and housed in a metal frame with four bumpers built to protect against “shock, abrasion, tilting or twisting.” Additionally, the screen has a shatter-resistant layer and the back of the phone now has a “rugged, tough texture” to make it less prone to slips and falls.
All that durability adds a bit of bulk to the device, measuring 151.9×74.9×9.9 mm vs 148.9×68.1×8 mm for the plain S8. At 208 grams, the new phone is a bit heavier than the 155-gram S8 as well. But you’re also getting a far bigger battery. The Galaxy S8 has a 3,000mAh battery, but the S8 Active has a massive 4,000mAh one, which should allow it to last well into a second day. And you can still charge it wirelessly.
The Galaxy S8 Active ships with full Bixby support (including Bixby Voice, which was missing on the Galaxy S8 until recently), and adds a new shortcut menu to quickly access the stopwatch, barometer, compass, and flashlight.
Samsung is selling the 64GB Galaxy S8 Active for $850 ($100 more than the Galaxy S8) in two colors, gray and gold. It is available for preorder at AT&Tfor shipment on Aug. 11. Samsung says the device will be exclusive to the carrier for a limited time.
Why this matters: Samsung has been making “active” variants of its Galaxy flagship phones ever since the S4, and they definitely live up to their name. They’re perfect for people who want a premium smartphone experience without babying their phone (or shoving it into a giant case. But like the other Galaxy S Active phones, we’re most interested in that battery. We’ll gladly sacrifice a millimeter of thickness of it means getting such a massive battery in the S9, but we’re not holding our breath, especially since the S7 Active had a 4,000mAh battery too.
Michael Simon covers all things mobile for Greenbot and Macworld. You can usually find him with his nose buried in a screen.