At the start of this review, I was simultaneously excited and frustrated. Now I'm just plain excited. For a bit of context, I have been bouncing between cloud music services since Lala was still a thing. I had one simple desire: I wanted to pay a monthly fee for unfettered access to a large library of content, but still wanted to be able to bring my own. I know that $10/month is not going to get me every song in existence, but if I can pay for most music, and then supply the rest, I'll be happy. Today, Google finally gave me what I wanted and, make no mistake, this is the model that other apps are going to follow for a long time to come.
Today, Google announced a new look for the Google+ stream. Gone is the weird, bubbly look that we've had for forever. The cards-centric UI that we've seen on phones and tablets is now coming to the desktop as well. You can select a one, two, or three-column layout and each individual card can flip over with a slick animation and provide more information and options.
Google's also improving its search and tagging functionality. Now, the service will analyze tags that you've provided and G+ will provide related hashtags to improve discovery. Even when you don't provide tags, Google can infer them.
Today, Google brought it's A-game with a subscription service for Play Music. Now, you can pay a $9.99 monthly fee to get unlimited access to a library of music. It also comes with a new, updated Play Music app that doesn't look like complete garbage. There's also a host of features including the ability to turn any track into a radio station.
The one key way that this service distinguishes itself from other subscription services is that this includes all of your own personal music. In other words, the MP3s you've purchased and own are in the same app as all the music you've added to your library via your subscription.
Today, Google announced Google Play game services that brings a suite of new features that game developers can integrate into their titles. The biggest of them is cloud data sync. Game developers can sync their players' progress across devices and platforms. Yes, this feature works on Android and iOS. This is hot.
In addition to cloud data sync, the suite of services also brings achievements and leaderboards. Any game can now tap into a unified system for showing off your accomplishments. If you want a more personal grandstanding experience, Google also introduced both live and turn-based multiplayer features for game developers to utilize.
Speaking at Google I/O, Android and Chrome chief Sundar Punchai just let on that there has now been over 900 million device activations. However, Google can't rest on its laurels. In the same breath as the announcement that Google has reached nearly a billion users in just a few years, the company showed off a map of countries where Android has less than 10% penetration. Those countries are green in the map below:
The message to the rest of the world is clear: Google's on its way to your town, too.
For years, Rovio lived on Angry Birds and nothing else. Then it tried to get you to love Alex. Then it gave the piggies a shot. Finally, Rovio went back to doing what it does best: throwing birds and cashing out. The demand for new games hasn't stopped, though. So what's a mega-giant corporation that's stuck in a creative rut to do? Crowd source, of course. Introducing Rovio Stars.
Rovio Stars is more than a little like the Fox Searchlight for games (but not quite like Steam Greenlight). The company is promising would-be gaming legends "world-class marketing and PR" for developers with great properties, and "expert game teams" to "[turn] your game into a blockbuster."
To get on Rovio's radar, you can apply by sending in screenshots or a gameplay video of your title and a description of what makes it so great.
Guys, stop talking about the Ouya for a second. Bluestacks has a different console it would like you to pay attention to: GamePop. The company that has previously worked on interoperability between Android software and other platforms, is now launching a console of its own. The hardware—including a console and physical controller—will be entirely free for people who pre-order. The catch? You have to pay for a subscription to play games.
The entire package will come with one console and one physical controller, though you'll also be able to use your smartphone as a controller as well. If you pre-order by in May (which you can do starting now) the service will cost $6.99 per month and the hardware will be free.
For the unfamiliar, Ashley Madison is a dating site that enables couples in monogamous relationships to find partners for illicit affairs. That's the baseline we're starting from. The company's new app, however, takes this concept one step further by providing users with disposable phone numbers that can be used for calling and texting without your spouse finding out.
The BlackBook app doesn't include access to the social network itself, so it's purely used for correspondence. The irony, of course, being that the very act of having an Ashley Madison-branded app on your phone is more suspicious to a scorned lover than any of the dozens of other disposable phone number services would be.
Don't forget - the Android Police Podcast's live broadcast is every Thursday at 5PM PST (www.androidpolice.com/podcast). The unedited video version of the podcast can be found here - and will likely include various verbal expletives, technical snafus, tangents, and probably a good 5-10 minutes of pre-podcast banter as we prepare. Watch at your own risk!
When we talk about Google Glass, we have a lot to be hopeful for and a lot to be worried about. Some of those worries might be a little less than rational. Like the fear that you'll potentially be monitored all the time, which is totally different from how it is now. So, for all the Glass skeptics out there, allow me to do you a favor and replace some less rational fears with some that are more reasonable: if Google Glass becomes popular, everyone is going to start looking at cat pictures on their glasses, no one will watch where they're going, and society will collectively walk into poles, open sewer holes, and each other.