Latest Tech

Facebook is testing text messaging to Messenger for Android

Facebook may revive a messaging feature it killed nearly three years ago: SMS integration. The company used to let Android users view and respond to text messages through its Facebook Messenger app, but it discontinued the feature in November 2013 due to poor adoption. Now a near-identical option is popping up for a select few Android owners in the US, discovered today via screenshots obtained by Android Police. The change means Facebook Messenger could operate similar to Google Hangouts, which combines SMS texts and Google Chat messages into a single client.

Facebook has confirmed the test, telling The Verge, “Right now, we’re testing the ability for people to easily bring all their conversations — from SMS and Messenger — to one place. It’s a really simple way to get, see, and respond to all your SMS messages in just one app. By choosing to access your SMS messages in Messenger, they’re right alongside all the other enhanced features that Messenger offers.” Facebook is also launching multiple account support for its Android Messenger app today.

When Facebook first launched the feature back in 2012, the company said it would not store texts and would not allow the feature to work on its web version of Messenger or on other platforms. It’s unclear if the same restrictions are in place this time around. Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

The feature, if it makes its way to a wider audience, would mark a significant and aggressive push from Facebook to eclipse SMS and long-time US rival iMessage, which Apple is able to layer over traditional text clients thanks to the integration of hardware and software. Messenger last month passed 800 million monthly active users, giving it one of the most robust mobile user bases on the planet. Yet SMS is still one of the default ways people communicate, and Facebook’s only option to siphon value from those messages is to try and route users through its own service

Latest Tech

Android Wear watches will get slimmer with this New Chip

Qualcomm has announced a clutch of new processors and chip systems, including a platform dedicated solely to Android Wear watches. Currently, the majority of Android Wear smartwatches are powered by the Snapdragon 400 system-on-chip, originally designed for smartphones and tablets. Qualcomm wants to replace this with the newly-announced Snapdragon Wear 2100. The Wear 2100 is 30 percent smaller than the 400 and uses 25 percent less power (allowing for slimmer smartwatches with longer battery life). It also includes a new LTE modem (as well as Wi-Fi and low power Bluetooth) for faster connectivity. Basically, it’s going to make smartwatches better.

In addition to the Snapdragon Wear 2100, Qualcomm also announced the first commercial gigabit LTE modem for mobile devices: the X16. Obviously, getting a gigabit connection is impossible in the US given the speed of mobile carriers’ LTE networks, but the X16 is (somewhat optimistically) preparing for a faster future. Qualcomm boasts that with 1 Gbps speeds you could live stream virtual reality content and download an HD movie for a flight before your plane had left the tarmac. But while there’s a lot of clever tech in the X16 (including the ability to combine up to four separate LTE connections — just think of the phone bill), this is future-perfect stuff, rather than something that’s ready today.

For that, you have to look to Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 625, 435, and 425 chips, also announced today. These are a mix of low to mid-tier systems that you can expect to show up in devices in the second half of this year. They all use ARM’s Cortex-A53 CPU (octa-core in the 625 and 435; quad-core in the 425), which has been around for years, and have tiered connection and imaging capabilities (for example, the 625 and 435 support up to 24-megapixel photos; the 425 maxes out at 16-megapixels). These aren’t exciting chips, but they’ll be powering the ongoing mobile boom in developing countries.

APPS Latest

Vevo’s new personalized music video features

Vevo is continuing its push to improve its standing among the many music services online. Vevo today releasing updates to its Android and Apple TV apps for Vevo’s new personalized music video features. Just like last year’s iOS refresh, they focus on personalization and ease of use.

According to product VP Mark Hall, the revamps are all about making the apps “more relevant and more useful for more people.” That means improving the interface with the same sleek UI iOS received in November. Most importantly, the “Favorites” section and “Spotlight” feed have both been ported over, allowing the user to create individual playlists and also watch videos curated according to his or her individual taste. The Apple TV app in particular is designed to let you sit back and relax while it plays the music it knows you’ll like.

Hall says that these updates continue Vevo’s “iterative effort on making [their] products better every month.” That effort, combined with the new recommendation engine, is meant to slowly make Vevo a platform worth returning to right alongside Spotify and its beloved Discover Weekly feature. Both apps are now available for download.