Odds and Ends 

Google will lose $50 million or more in 2018 from Fortnite bypassing the Play Store

When Fortnite Battle Royale launched on Android, it made an unusual choice: it bypassed Google Play in favor of offering the game directly from Epic Games’ own website. Most apps and games don’t have the luxury of making this choice – the built-in distribution Google Play offers is critical to their business. But Epic Games believes its game is popular enough and has a strong enough draw to bring players to its website for the Android download instead. In the process,  Unlike Apple, which only allows apps to be downloaded from…

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Google acquires GraphicsFuzz, a service that tests Android graphics drivers

Google has acquired GraphicsFuzz, a company that builds a framework for testing the security and reliability of Android graphics drivers. The news, which was first spotted by XDA Developers, comes on the same day Google announced the release of Android 9 Pie. A Google spokesperson confirmed the news to us but declined to provide any further information. The companies also declined to provide any details about the price of the acquisition. The GraphicsFuzz team, which consists of co-founders Alastair Donaldson, Hugues Evrard and Paul Thomson, will join the Android graphics team to…

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Headlines 

Millions of Android Devices Are Vulnerable Right Out of the Box

Security meltdowns on your smartphone are often self-inflicted: You clicked the wrong link, or installed the wrong app. But for millions of Android devices, the vulnerabilities have been baked in ahead of time, deep in the firmware, just waiting to be exploited. Who put them there? Some combination of the manufacturer that made it, and the carrier that sold it to you. That’s the key finding of new analysis from mobile security firm Kryptowire, which details troubling bugs preloaded into 10 devices sold across the major US carriers. Kryptowire CEO…

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Headlines 

Android Pie Is Here. Let’s All Enjoy a Slice

Google has just released the final version of its Android P software, which was first previewed at the company's annual developer conference back in May. This also means that we're finally learning what P stands for, after months of online debate. Popsicle? Pudding? Pumpkin pie? In keeping with Google's dessert-themed naming convention for its mobile OS, the new software is simply named Pie—although, as many will be quick to point out, not all pies are dessert pies. One element of this users might find jarring: The permanent back button is…

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Odds and Ends 

Apple is rebuilding Maps from the ground up

I’m not sure if you’re aware, but the launch of Apple Maps went poorly. After a rough first impression, an apology from the CEO, several years of patching holes with data partnerships and some glimmers of light with long-awaited transit directions and improvements in business, parking and place data, Apple Maps is still not where it needs to be to be considered a world-class service. Maps needs fixing. Apple, it turns out, is aware of this, so it’s re-building the maps part of Maps. It’s doing this by using first-party data…

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Headlines 

How to Secure Your Accounts With Better Two-Factor Authentication

Hopefully by now you’ve heeded the repeated warnings from your friends and loved ones (and friendly, beloved internet writers) to use two-factor authentication to secure your digital accounts. That’s where access to Facebook or Twitter or your online bank—anything that supports it, really—requires not just a password but also a special code. Not all two-factor is created equal, however. For better protection, you’re going to want an authenticator app. Yes, the easiest way to implement two-factor is with SMS, receiving a text with an access code every time you try…

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Headlines 

Shadow Politics: Meet the Digital Sleuth Exposing Fake News

When we met in early March, Jonathan Albright was still shrugging off a sleepless weekend. It was a few weeks after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had killed 17 people, most of them teenagers, and promptly turned the internet into a cesspool of finger pointing and conspiracy slinging. Within days, ultraconservative YouTube stars like Alex Jones had rallied their supporters behind the bogus claim that the students who survived and took to the press to call for gun control were merely actors. Within a week, one of…

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Headlines 

Inside X, the Moonshot Factory Racing to Build the Next Google

At 6:40 in the morning, a klaxon horn sounds three times. “Gas!” a man in a hard hat and fluorescent vest yells out. There’s a hissing noise, and the helium starts flowing. From the tanks stacked like cordwood on a nearby truck, the gas moves through a series of hoses until it’s 55 feet up, then through a copper pipe and into the top of a plastic tube that hangs down to the ground, like a shed snake skin held up for inspection. It’s a Wednesday in late June in…

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Encyclopdia Britannica Wants to Fix False Google Results

In January 2014, Google made a fundamental change to its search product: It started showing answers to user queries directly in so-called snippets, no further clicks required. But what started out as a time-saver has morphed into a repeated source of misleading and outright false information, thanks to Google's frequent reliance on untrusted sources. The product has, among other things, declared that Barack Obama is the "king" of the United States and reported that dinosaurs are being used to trick people into thinking the world is millions of years old.…

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Odds and Ends 

Say hello to Google One

Google is revamping its consumer storage plans today by adding a new $2.99/month tier for 200 GB of storage and dropping the price of its 2 TB plan from $19.99/month to $9.99/month (and dropping the $9.99/month 1 TB plan). It’s also rebranding these storage plans (but not Google Drive itself) as “Google One.” Going forward, you’ll also be able to share your storage quota with up to five family members. Brandon Badger, Google’s group product manager for Google One, told me the team looked at how people use the storage…

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Duplex shows Google failing at ethical and creative AI design

Google CEO Sundar Pichai milked the woos from a clappy, home-turf developer crowd at its I/O conference in Mountain View this week with a demo of an in-the-works voice assistant feature that will enable the AI to make telephone calls on behalf of its human owner. The so-called ‘Duplex’ feature of the Google Assistant was shown calling a hair salon to book a woman’s hair cut, and ringing a restaurant to try to book a table — only to be told it did not accept bookings for less than five people. At…

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Maps walking navigation is Googles most compelling use for AR yet

Google managed to elicit an audible gasp from the crowd at I/O today when it showed off a new augmented feature for Maps. It was a clear standout during a keynote that contained plenty of iterative updates to existing software, and proved a key glimpse into what it will take to move AR from interesting novelty to compelling use case. Along with the standard array of ARCore-based gaming offerings, the new AR mode for Maps is arguably one of the first truly indispensable real-world applications. As someone who spent the…

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Headlines 

Google, Alibaba Spar Over Timeline for ‘Quantum Supremacy’

Google’s quantum computing researchers have been planning a party—but new results from a competing team at China’s Alibaba may have postponed it. The China-America corporate rivalry on an obscure frontier of physics illustrates a growing contest between nations and companies hoping to create a new form of improbably powerful computer. In March, Google unveiled a chip called Bristlecone intended to set a computing milestone. It could, Google said, become the first quantum computing system to perform a calculation beyond the power of any conventional computer—a marker known as quantum supremacy.…

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Google Maps goes beyond directions

Google today announced a new version of Google Maps that will launch later this summer. All of the core Google Maps features for getting directions aren’t going away, of course, but on top of that, the team has now built a new set of features that are all about exploration. “About a year ago, when we started to talk to users, one of the things we asked them was: how can we really help you? What else do you want Google Maps to do? And one of the overwhelming answers…

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Odds and Ends 

8 big announcements from Google I/O 2018

Google kicked off its annual I/O developer conference at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California. Here are some of the biggest announcements from the Day 1 keynote. There will be more to come over the next couple of days, so follow along on everything Google I/O on TechCrunch.  Google goes all in on artificial intelligence, rebranding its research division to Google AI Just before the keynote, Google announced it is rebranding its Google Research division to Google AI. The move signals how Google has increasingly focused R&D on computer vision,…

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