Google says more than 40 carriers and device manufacturers now support RCS, the next generation of SMS


Rich Communication Services (RCS) is basically the standard for the next generation of text messaging, with apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, LINE and others now offering features that go far beyond the standard SMS-based messaging apps that tend to ship with your phone — unless, of course, you are an Apple and iMessage user.

As Google announced today, more than 40 carriers and device manufacturers now support RCS. That’s up from the 27 Google cited last year.

RCS is a GSM standard, but its biggest champion has long been Google, which looks at the service to allow its Android platform to get at least some feature parity with Apple’s iMessage service.

With Mobile World Congress coming up next week, it’s no surprise that Google wants to talk a bit more about RCS ahead of the event. Specifically, the company today noted Business Messaging as one of the central features of the new service. With this, businesses can send verified rich messages with boarding passes, credit card fraud alerts and package delivery notifications, for example. Those messages can include suggested replies and actions (change seat, call airline, etc.).

The standard Android Messages app started supporting it a year ago and with Jibe, Google offers a platform for launching and managing RCS services.

Over the course of the last year, a number of new carriers in Europe and Latin American have signed on to Google’s Jibe RCS cloud, including America Movil, AT&T, Celcom Axiata, Freedom Mobile, Oi, Telia and Telefonica.

Among the partners is messaging service Twilio, which today announced it has added support for RCS to its service. “By making rich, interactive messaging features available to consumers in their default messaging app, RCS has the potential to be as ubiquitous as SMS is today,” Patrick Malatack, VP of Product and GM of Messaging at Twilio told me. “Developers choose to build this messaging experience using Twilio because instead of wrestling with variations in APIs and tooling, they can integrate every messaging channel — including RCS — into their applications through one simple API. We can’t wait to see what our customers build.”

Other partners Google has worked with include 3C, CM.com, Mobivity, OpenMarket and Smooch.

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Google tries to make Android more enterprise-friendly with new recommendation program


With so many Android devices out there to choose from, it’s not always easy to find one that’s enterprise-friendly. To help alleviate that problem, Google announced the Android Enterprise Recommended program today.

As the name implies, it’s designed to point enterprise IT departments at devices that Google has deemed to be enterprise-ready. This involves a number of criteria including minimum hardware specifications for Android 7.0 + devices, support for bulk deployment and managed profiles and devices for a consistent application experience across deployed devices. The full list includes all of the minimum app and hardware specifications required to be included in the program.

Photo: Google

The program also requires that manufacturers make security updates available within 90 days of Google releasing them for at least three years. Ninety days feels a bit long if there is a serious vulnerability in the wild, but Google indicated this was not a fixed list and the company would update the requirements as needed over time.

As for the devices they are recommending, these include a broad range of usual suspects such as BlackBerry KEYone and Motion; Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL (of course); Huawei Mate 10, Mate 10 Pro, P10, P10 Plus, P10 Lite, and P smart and LG V30 and G6, among others.

Conspicuously missing from this list is anything by Samsung, a company that has programs in place like Knox specifically designed for the enterprise. There are also no HTC phones, but to be fair the company left the door open for more devices  and additional partners to be added over time.

“You can expect more Android Enterprise Recommended devices to be added in the coming weeks and months. Throughout 2018, we will also be applying the Android Enterprise Recommended framework to additional partner types, including OEMs of “dedicated” and rugged devices, mobile carriers, enterprise mobility management (EMM) providers and systems integrators,” Google director of Android Enterprise, David Still wrote in a company blog post announcing the program.

While fewer companies are probably still buying phones for their employees — those kind of programs tended to peak with the old stalwart BlackBerry devices in the days before ‘Bring Your Own Device’ programs popped up — those that do and want to use Android, need to have devices that they can manage and deploy in a consistent way. This program is designed to provide a minimum set of specifications to meet that.

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Google’s Cloud IoT Core is now generally available


Cloud IoT Core, Google’s fully managed service for connecting, managing and ingesting data from IoT devices, is now out of beta and generally available. Google envisions the service, which launched in public beta last September, as the first entry point for IoT data into its cloud. Once the data has been ingested, users can use Cloud IoT Core to push data to Google’s cloud databases, analytics tools, serverless platform and machine learning services.

One feature the company stresses is that Cloud IoT Core is able to support data “from millions of globally dispersed devices.” Like similar services, Cloud IoT Core supports the standard MQTT and HTTP protocols for talking to devices.

Unsurprisingly, the service supports Google’s own Android Things platform out of the box, but Google has also partnered with the likes of ARM, Cisco, Intel, NXP, Sierra Wireless and other hardware partners to make their products work with its service.

Current users include the likes of Schlumberger, which uses it as part of its IoT integration strategy, Smart Parking in New Zealand, bike-sharing service Blaze and Mexican bus operator Grupo ADO.

To use Cloud IoT Core, users pay per megabyte of ingested data. The first 250 megabyte per month are free and after that, Google charges $0.0045 per megabyte for the first 250 GB of data (with significant discounts for users with higher data volumes).

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Nest rolls out a $5 cloud recording plan for its cameras

Just a quick bit of news for those with Nest cams around the house: a new, cheaper Nest Aware (read: the cloud recording service that also gives the camera a bit more smarts) plan is on the way.

Nest has long offered two plans: a $10/month plan that lets you store the last 10 days of video history, and a $30/month plan that gave you 30 days of video history. This new plan will cost $5 per month and, as you’ve probably deduced, will give you 5 days of video history.

This is something folks have been asking for for a while now. Most people don’t really need 10 days or more of their video logs; in most cases, the bit of security footage you’re most interested in is from the last day or two. It’s also nice news for those with multiple Nest cams — each one needs its own Nest Aware subscription, so that $10 per month minimum added up fast.

In addition to the cloud video recording, a Nest Aware subscription also taps the cloud to teach the Nest Cam a few new tricks: it lets you set “Activity Zones” (letting you set up alerts when there’s motion in certain areas like, say, a door way), create timelapses, and it can try to tell whether that thing moving around your living room is a person or just your dog.

One of Nest’s cameras can now double as a Google Assistant

After Google announced earlier this month that it was going to wrap Nest back into Google’s hardware operation, everyone figured we’d see a bit more overlap between the two. Sure enough, just two weeks later: the Nest Cam IQ Indoor is getting support for Google Assistant.

Nest says the app update that lets users toggle Google Assistant functionality should hit sometime today. The Nest Cam IQ already has a microphone and speaker built-in for two way communications, so this just repurposes that existing hardware.

Once you’ve turned on the functionality, Google Assistant on the Cam IQ should work the same as it does on any Google Home device — just say “OK Google” followed by your question.

It sounds like this functionality is only coming to the Cam IQ Indoor for now — so don’t try barking commands at the outdoor Cam IQ or your old Dropcams just yet.

Say goodbye to Android Pay and hello to Google Pay


As we reported last month, Google is uniting all of its different payment tools under the Google Pay brand. On Android, however, the Android Pay app stuck with its existing brand. That’s changing today, though, with the launch of Google Pay for Android. With this, Google is rolling out an update to Android Pay and introducing some new functionality that the company hopes will make its payment service ubiquitous — both in stores and on the internet.

In addition, Google is also launching a redesign of the Google Wallet app for sending and requesting money — and it’s now called Google Pay Send. Users in the U.S. and U.K., though, will also soon be able to use the Google Pay app for sending and requesting money. New users can download the Google Pay app today and existing Android Pay users will get updated over the course of the next few days.

At first glance, the new Google Pay app is basically a redesign of Android Pay, with a look and feel that adheres closer to Google’s own Material Design guidelines than the original. In terms of functionality, there isn’t all that much here that’s new. One notable change, though, is that the Google Pay home screen now shows you relevant stores around you where you can pay with Google Pay. That list is personalized, based on previous stores where you used the service, and based on your location, too. In addition, the home screen also shows you all of your recent purchases and you can also still add all of your loyalty cards to the app, too.

As Google’s VP of Product Management for Payments, Pali Bhat told me, the team really wanted to make it extremely easy to get started with Google Pay and use the service to pay for goods online and in the real world — and to do so with as little friction as possible. That means that users who bank with Bank of America in the U.S. or a Google partner like Mbank in Poland,  you can set up Google Pay right from your bank’s app without having to even install Google Pay. Once that’s set up, you can simply pay with Google Pay online and out in the real world.

Similarly, if an online app or website wants to support this, developers can simply call a Google API to see if a given user has Google Pay enabled and then can then accept payments through Google Pay (which still get routed through the developers’ regular payment processors like Stripe or Braintree). “We give developers a very simple API to implement Google Pay,” Bhat noted, “The API is simple because we are not processing that payment. We just securely pass the credentials to whoever is doing it.” Apps like DoorDash, Airbnb, Hotel Tonight and others already support this feature today.

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Google’s Tez payments app now lets users handle their utility bills and more


Google’s Tez payment service in India has got a major update that allows users to pay their utilities and other bills via the app.

The service was launched last September for iOS and Android and it initially allowed for payments between bank accounts using India’s UPI (Unified Payments Interface) protocol. Now the app has gotten support to pay for bills from more than 80 organizations — including national/state electric, gas and water, and TV/internet services — with more to come soon.

In the case of recurring bills, the app will send a notification when a new payment is due and fetch the bill. The app also lists previous bills paid, and it supports multiple accounts.

“We’ve designed bill payments to be the most convenient way to manage life’s expenses, so you can pay right from your bank account in just a few taps. We can’t wait for you to try it out and see how much time you save,” Google wrote in a blog post.

The feature is available under the ‘new payment’ tab as outlined in the video below.

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Tez clocked 12 million users in December, just three months after launch, but Google has yet to provide an updated figure.

The bill payment feature comes at an opportune time. WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging app used by over 200 million people in India, began rolling out peer-to-peer payments in the country with the potential to massively disrupt the status quo. India is WhatsApp’s largest single country based on users, and the payment feature has been a year in the making prior to its release.

Tez, a far more modest arrival, has also made waves, and this new update is one that is likely to make it hugely useful. Others in the field, include Paytm and MobiKwik, already include bill payment, peer-to-peer transfers and more.

Featured Image: Google