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Google says its app store will continue to work for existing Huawei smartphone owners – TechCrunch

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Google said today that existing users of Huawei Android devices can continue to use Google Play app store, offering some relief to tens of millions of users worldwide even as it remains unclear if the Chinese tech giant will be able to use the fully-functioning version of Android in its future phones.

Existing Huawei phone users will also be able to enjoy security protections delivered through Google Play Protect, the company said in a statement to TechCrunch. Google Play Protect is a built-in malware detector that uses machine learning to detect and weed out rogue apps. Google did not specify whether Huawei devices will receive future Android updates.

The statement comes after Reuters reported on Sunday that Google is suspending some businesses with Huawei, the world’s second largest smartphone maker that shipped over 200 million handsets last year. The report claimed, a point not addressed by Google, that future Android devices from Huawei will not run Google Mobile Services, a host of services offered by Google including Google Play Store, and email client Gmail. A Huawei spokesperson said the company is looking into the situation but has nothing to share beyond this.

 

It’s a major setback for Huawei, which unless resolved in the next few weeks, could significantly disrupt its phone business outside of China. The top Android phone vendor, which is already grappling with controversy over security concerns, will have to rethink its software strategy for future phones if there is no resolution. Dearth — or delay in delivery — of future Android updates would also hurt the company’s reputation among its customers around the globe.

“We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.

The two tech companies find themselves in this awkward situation as a result of the latest development in the ongoing U.S-China trade war. Huawei and 70 of its affiliates have been put on an “entity list” by the U.S. Commerce Department over national security concerns, requiring local giants such as Google and Intel to take approval from the government before conducting business with the Chinese firm.

Huawei may have already foreseen this. A company executive revealed recently that Huawei had built its own Android-based operating system in case a future event prevented it from using existing systems. Per Reuters, Huawei can also continue to use AOSP, the open source Android operating system that ships stripped off Google Mobile Services. And on paper, it can also probably have an app store of its own. But convincing enough stakeholders to make their apps available on Huawei’s store and continually push updates could prove incredibly challenging.

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Some Google Pixel Watches are falling apart

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Enlarge / The Pixel Watch. It’s a round little pebble.

Ron Amadeo

Here’s one of the improvements Google might want to look into for the Pixel Watch 2: better glue. Android Police spotted a few reports of the back panels of some Pixel Watches just falling off. A few posts on the PixelWatch subreddit have photos of this phenomenon; several commenters say it happened to them, too.

This certainly seems like something Google should cover under warranty, and with the device being less than a year old, everyone should be under warranty. You also have a strong argument if you contact Google support about a device that has fallen apart. The scary thing is this will also compromise the device’s water resistance, and we doubt Google is covering every instance of water damage. Most reports indicate Google is taking care of the problem, but a few users were initially threatened with a $300 repair fee, which was later waived.

When iFixit tore down the Pixel Watch, it noted the back adhesive was a novel “liquid gasket” the site had never seen before. The report said, “The rear glass appears to be held in place by a kind of liquid gasket that seals tightly, but comes open clean. It also peels off the glass with virtually no residue.” It sounds like Google’s fancy glue peels off a little too easily. Poorly adhered back panels were also a recent problem with Fossil watches, and in the “Gen 6” versions, Fossil acknowledged the problem and said it was fixed.

We all know manufacturers like to build completely fastener-free smartphones, but it’s not unusual to see visible screws on the back of a traditional watch. Some watches turn the entire back panel into a giant screw, with a threaded edge running along the back cover, and the whole thing screws into the watch body. Maybe a real fastener would help the Pixel Watch.

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Google Wallet for Android now supports digital IDs

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Enlarge / A Maryland digital ID.

Google

Google Wallet on Android is finally getting ready for your digital driver’s license and other US state IDs. Google says the feature is rolling out this month, and it will slowly start bringing states online this year. Of course, your state has to be one of the few that actually supports digital IDs. Google says Maryland residents can use the feature right now and that “in the coming months, residents of Arizona, Colorado and Georgia will join them.”

The road to digital driver’s license support has been a long one, with the “Identity Credential API” landing in Android 11 in 2020. Since then, it has technically been possible for states to make their own ID app. Now Google Wallet, Google’s re-re-reboot of its payment app, is providing a first-party way to store an ID on your phone. Some parts of the Identity Credential API landed in Google Play Services (Google’s version-agnostic brick of APIs), so Wallet supports digital IDs going back to Android 8.0, which covers about 90 percent of Android devices.

Maryland has supported Digital IDs on iOS for a while, which gives us an idea of how this will work. An NFC transfer is enough to beam your credentials to someone, where you can just tap against a special NFC ID terminal and confirm the transfer with your fingerprint. Wallet has an NFC option, along with a “Show code” option that will show the traditional driver’s license barcode.

IDs are saved locally on your device, but Google lets you remove them remotely from myaccount.google.com, so if you lose your phone, you can still secure your ID. In the full-fat, Android 11 version of the Identity Credential API, Google supposedly has a “Direct Access” mode that can transfer your ID over NFC even if you don’t have enough power to boot up the phone. Google says that will require special hardware support, though.

Reality has not necessarily caught up to Google’s and Apple’s technical implementations. Just like Apple’s announcement in 2021, Google only mentions the Wallet IDs working at airport TSA check-ins, and the support document notes that “you must still carry your physical ID as needed.” For it to actually replace a driver’s license, police would have to be trained and equipped to accept a digital ID during a traffic stop. Ideally, they would have a portable ID scanner/NFC reader because the alternative of handing over your entire phone to the cops does not sound very appealing. Laws and technology rollouts have to happen individually across all 50 states, so it’s hard to track how far along any of this is. It does not sound like much progress has been made, though. IDScan.net, a company that makes digital ID solutions, currently tracks 12 states as having some kind of active digital ID program and another 11 in a “pilot” program.

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Hobbyist grinds down original chips by hand to make a Game Boy-sized NES

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If you want a portable console that can play old Nintendo Entertainment System games, the easiest option is software emulation, whether you’re using Nintendo’s official Switch app, a portable PC, or some cheap knockoff emulator handheld. For those who want better accuracy than software emulation can provide, there’s always the Analogue Pocket, which can (with current firmware) re-create the NES in hardware using its FPGA chip.

But some purists are unsatisfied with anything other than original hardware—that’s the only possible explanation for projects like the TinyTendo, which goes to extraordinary lengths to squeeze an entire NES into a portable package roughly the size and weight of the old gray monochrome Game Boy. The project is the creation of hardware modder Redherring32, who eventually plans to open-source the project.

For miniaturization projects like this, you often see chopped-up or fully custom-printed circuit boards used with the original chips to contort the hardware into a new shape. This landscape orientation mod for the original Game Boy is a good example. But more drastic measures were needed to squeeze an entire NES into a handheld console, most notably the removal of bulky pins and ceramic that the original chips all use.

“TinyTendo utilizes real NES chips that have been physically cut and ground down smaller,” wrote Redherring32. “A simple run down is that I sand away the bottom of the chip till I hit the die and leads, then I cut the chip smaller with a Dremel. The end result is 10x10x2mm, and surface mountable.”

The hand-cut chips save a substantial amount of space by losing the pins and ceramic.

Soldering the hand-cut chips to a custom PCB creates a fully functional NES board that is “smaller than a Raspberry Pi 3,” though the design also integrates a power management PCB, a button PCB, and other boards for audio and other functions. The console has a built-in LCD screen, charges over USB-C, and plays  miniaturized (non-original) game cartridges, though full-size carts could be played with an adapter.

The downside of this project is that it requires the sacrifice of an actual NES to make it work. This prototype was made from an NES with a “very damaged motherboard,” and we would encourage anyone who wants to make their own to harvest parts from non-functional consoles rather than destroying functioning hardware.

Redherring32 is responsible for several other modding and preservation projects, including open source PCB designs for the original front- and top-loading NES motherboards and the “PicoPad,” a functional controller that’s considerably smaller than the connector that plugs it into the NES.

Listing image by Redherring32/Twitter

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