There should be no doubt, Google is getting ready to make a lot of announcements at I/O. If we've learned anything from past experiences, Google starts packing its apps full of surprises in the weeks leading up to the big show. The latest update to Play Services started rolling out yesterday and it has grown by a whopping 4 MB, almost 30% larger than the previous version. There's obviously a lot of stuff to look at, so let's just jump right in.
Over the past several years, text messaging has become an important tool for families, friends, and co-workers to stay in contact quickly and easily. More recently, it has also become a clutch way for people to communicate and collaborate on the job, oftentimes with group messages becoming a sort of on-the-go whiteboard for tossing around ideas or simply setting up meetings.
Today, Autodesk is throwing its hat into the group messaging arena with its new app Autodesk Instant.
Facebook's $19 billion purchase of WhatsApp was certainly yesterday's biggest story when it came to web and social news. But according to Amir Efrati of The Information, there's an interesting backstory that didn't make it into the financial pages. He reports that six months ago, Google offered to pay WhatsApp to notify the larger company if they received an acquisition offer from anyone else. While an exact amount hasn't been disclosed, the deal was reportedly worth "millions of dollars."
The Information's anonymous sources say that WhatsApp declined the offer - surely a hard pill to swallow for a startup company, even one with the fantastic number of users that WhatsApp boasts.
Rakuten is often referred to by western media as "the Amazon of Japan." That description seems more and more apt given some of the mega-retailer's recent purchases, including Canadian e-reader company Kobo. Yesterday Rakuten announced that it had purchased Viber, an up-and coming voice-over-IP company with apps on Android, iOS, and Windows, among others, for a whopping $900 million.
Viber is primarily a Skype competitor, though it also offers text and picture messaging, group chat, and cross-communication between mobile and desktop operating systems.
Remember that neat Twitter client from earlier today called Talon? Well, the developers have also released a new SMS app called EvolveSMS with a lot of the same UI flair. EvolveSMS takes advantage of translucent system elements on KitKat and borrows some extra pieces from Google's design language to create something very cool.
Klinker Apps previously created a popular SMS client known as Sliding Messaging. EvolveSMS is essentially a spruced up version of that app with improved features.
Google is rolling out an updated version of Hangouts, and while version 2.0.2 doesn't introduce much in the way of exciting new features, it squashes a handful of annoying bugs introduced when the app took on the ability to handle SMS and MMS messages.
First, we heard that KitKat would bring some changes to the API, breaking many of the SMS apps we've come to rely on. On the day KitKat was released, we were given a more full explanation, shining some light on the technical details and exactly what types of apps would be affected. But did anybody really think this was the end of the story? It turns out that a hidden permission exists which can still grant non-default apps the right to modify the SMS database just like they used to - no rooting required.
Today, at the DefCamp Security Conference in Bucharest, Romania, details were revealed about a potentially serious SMS vulnerability found in all current Nexus phones. The person responsible for the discovery is Bogdan Alecu, a system administrator at Levi9 and independent security researcher in Romania. When exploited, the attack can force the phone to reboot or destabilize certain services.
The method of attack simply relies on sending a series of Class 0 "Flash" messages to the target phone.
You might remember a couple of weeks ago when Google gave developers a heads up about changes to KitKat that might cause problems for SMS apps. At the time, we knew that this only meant there would be a single app in charge of writing to the database, while all of the others would...well, that part wasn't really defined. Today, one in a series of developer videos gave us a little clarification on what it means to be a default app, and what it means for the rest of them.