Today’s Deal – BLU R1 HD Amazon Prime Exclusive for $60

Today’s Deal over at Amazon is on the BLU R1 HD.  This 5″ HD curved display phone has been out of stock for a while but has returned at a great price of $59.99 for the 16GB storage model.  Like other Amazon Prime exclusive phones, the R1 HD comes with adverts on the lockscreen.  If you can live with that and are looking for a solid performing phone for yourself or a gift, take a look at it.  Normally it is $99 and if you order it you can get it in a couple of days thanks to free Amazon Prime shipping.

The BLU R1 HD is powered by a quad-core MdeiaTek 6725 processor running at 1.3GHz and has 2GB of RAM.  The 16GB of built in storage can be expanded up to an additional 64GB thansk to the MicroSD support.  The R1 HD is also a dual SIM phone for those who travel abroad.  The cameras on the phone include an 8MP primary camera and a 5MP front facing selfie camera that includes an LED flash for your selfies.

Microsoft Office 365 Apps for Android Updated With New Features

Microsoft has pushed an update out to the Android version of Excel, Word and PowerPoint to the Play Store.  The updated Office 365 apps brings new features to each app that continue the company’s drive to have feature parity between the desktop and the mobile screen.  For Excel, the big new feature is the ability to open a file that contains form controls.  Form controls, as the name suggests, are when you have a form embedded into a spreadsheet.  This previously could only be opened on the desktop.

For PowerPoint, a likely more useful addition than the form controls in Excel for most of us.  Now in PowerPoint on Android you can send a single slide to someone.  Previously you had to send the entire presentation and couldn’t send an individual slide.  Again, this is something you could do on the desktop and online version of PowerPoint but now can do it on your phone or tablet.

Take a Tour of The White House on Google Street View

With the election of the 45th President tomorrow, now is a great time to check out the White House.  Can’t make it to Washington, D.C.?  No problem.  Google Street View has added a wall through tour of the residence of the President that allows you to explore all the different rooms of this grand house.

The tour of the White House is available in Google Maps online but if you have the Street View apps on your Android Phone, you can just search for White House and it will get you there, complete with a wall through that you can do at your own pace.  And the best part is, there are no queues to enter.

Project Fi App Update Gives Management on Group Plans

The Project Fi app for Android and Fi members has an update rolling out that allows some management features of Group Plans.  Referred to as the “M” update, users who upgrade and have group plans enabled will be able to manage some elements of that plan including being able to limit a users data allocation.  However, in order to create a group plan, add or delete a member of the plan, you will still need to go through the Fi website.

Group Plans have been in Fi for a few months now and had been one of the most requested features of the MVNO service from Google.  Like other carriers, group plans allow you to share a pool of data with up to 5 members.  It is great for families or even small businesses.

Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides for Android See Minor Updates

Users of Google Docs, Sheets and Slides on Android will find minor updates rolling out for each of the productivity apps.  For the most part, these updates are bug fixes and performance improvements but in the case of Google Docs and Google Slides, there are new features in each.  For Docs, you now have the ability to add page numbers to a document from the app.  You have been able to do this in Docs on the web for a long time but it has finally made its way to the Android app for the sake of feature parity.

For Google Slides, the ability to import and export OpenDocument formatted files (.odp) has been added to the presentation app.

Google Could Launch The Budget Friendly Android One in The US

It looks like we could see the budget friendly Android One phone here in the United States by mid year.  A report in The Information suggests that Google is planning on launching the phone at a $200-300 price range that will give branding recognition to Android in addition to giving uses a true Google Android experience.  Further, like the Nexus and Pixel phones,they would get updates and security patches for two years meaning they would more-or-less be the most up to date.

For those who may not know what Android One is, it was a low budget phone that was launched in India back in 2014.  The idea was to give a Google Android experience at a $100 price range.  It didn’t do well as it didn’t get the marketing support it needed and the phones were under powered and under featured compared to similar phones in India at the time.

Verizon is Making it Painful To Keep That Galaxy Note7

If you haven’t figured it out, the Samsung Galaxy Note7 is dangerous, it has been recalled and basically every mobile carrier has thrown a Samsung-built kill switch update that renders the phone useless.  Verizon rolled out an update a couple of weeks ago that prevented the phablet from charging but some Note7 owners never updated to it as they figured out how to get around it.  So, meet Verizon Note7 kill switch 2.

Verizon has begun re-routing calls made from the Note7 to customer service.  This is on every call you make with the exception of 911.  They are serious about you getting that phone back to them.  Oh, and if that isn’t enough to get you to turn in the phone at your local Verizon store, don’t be surprised if you see an $800 charge on an upcoming bill for the phone.  Now to be fair I question how they could get away with this but the point here is that Verizon is making a statement: Turn in your Note7.  Now.

Google Search Now Can Queue Offline Search Requests

A great new feature is rolling out to Google Search for Android that will help you be more productive when you are offline.  Now when you do a search and you do not have a data connection (LTE or Wi-Fi), Google Search will queue your search queries and will provide the results back to you when a connection is established.  The idea is that you don’t have to remember to do that search later.  You can do it at the moment, it will queue, and you will get the results once you are back online.

Here is a scenario for you.  Let’s say you are on a flight with no Wi-Fi (I know, animalistic but go with me on this) and you are working on a research project.  You can do a search while you are in airplane mode and Search will queue it up.  You land, take your phone out of airplane mode and you get a notification that your search query has been answer.  It saves you time and you don’t have to try to remember to do the search later.  Do it at the moment and get the results back when you are back online.

Microsoft Cortana Could Soon Have Lock Screen Access on Android

A new beta of Microsoft Cortana, the personal assistant AI from the Redmond company, is out for Android and with it comes a pretty nice new feature.  In the beta, you can allow Cortana to have access to your Lock Screen.  Why is that a big deal?  You could ask Cortana for information without having to actually unlock your phone.  It appears to function in nearly an identical way to Google Assistant in the Google Pixel Launcher or the Google Now Launcher.

Cortana, the AI character from the Halo series, is perhaps the most forgotten of the AI assistance out there, behind Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant.  But it is a solid performer and is integrated into Windows 10 and in Windows 10 Phone.

Multiple Sony Xperia Phones Seeing Android Nougat Updates Rolling Out

Sony has begun rolling out the Android Nougat update to some of the Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z5 lineup.  The Xperia Z5 and Z5 Premium started seeing the update to the 7.0 build yesterday while today, the Xperia Z3+ and Z3+ Dual started having the update roll out to them.  The update will take several weeks to get to everyone but you can always manually check for it by going to Settings>About Phone>Software Update.  In general, you can expect the download of the update to be about 1.5GB for the phones and the update time will take 15-20 minutes including a reboot.  Once you have it installed, you will have all the goodies that come with Nougat along with some improvements in the Sony apps on the phones.

If you don’t remember what’s all in Nougat, you can take a look at my review for the highlights.

Big Changes Coming to Google+

Google has announced a raft of changes that are coming to Google+ for the web and for Android.  While there are several things that were highlighted, perhaps the two biggest have to do with Events and the old G+ layout.  One is returning and one is going away for good.  Events went away from Google+ during the revamping of the app and the web site last year and it was one of the feature that many users had requested Google to get back into it.  That will be happening starting January 24th.

Finally (drumroll please!), we’re bringing Events over to the new Google+. While there’s more to be done to improve the experience, beginning January 24th you’ll be able to create and join events on Google+ web as you have in the past. Please note that Events will not be available for G Suite at this time.

Note that the post said on the web.  It does not look like you’ll be able to add events from the app – at least not yet.

Project Fi Referral Plan Extended Indefinitely

Last month I wrote about a referral program that Project Fi had going on last month.  Basically the way it worked is that if you used a referral link from a Project Fi customer (like mine for example), you would get a $20 kick back on your bill have you have been active for 30 days.  In return, I get the same kick back after you have been active for 30 days.  It was a win-win and it was a great for you to try Fi with a little bit less risk.

And while I’m at it, thank you Alan, Rodger and Stef for using my referral link last month!  😀

Now the referral program has been extended indefinitely.  If you want to try out Fi, you can use a referral link from any current Fi customer and sign up.  After you have been with the service for 30 days, you too will get a referral link so you can share the love too.