Under the hood improvements don't always get much love, but there is a segment of Android users that will be thrilled to hear about what Google has done for those working with audio. The headlining change is an API for MIDI, which is the primary interface for communicating music-oriented information between devices. The net result of this will be making it far easier for developers to create apps that interact with hardware for making music or other sorts of sounds.
Remember that "Voice Access" talk that was supposed to happen at I/O but was removed from the schedule? It turns out that, while it wasn't the full-on in-app voice craziness we had hoped for, Google did have some news about voice interactions to share.
Specifically, with Android M, Google has introduced the Voice Interaction API, which will allow apps to get a better handle on a user's voice-initiated requests. Check out the video below, by the leaders of a sandbox talk at I/O about voice actions.
The new API, as Google Search Developer Advocate Jarek Wilkiewicz explains, shouldn't be confused with custom voice actions.
Google added a battery saver mode in Android 5.0 that disables various features when you need to conserve juice. You could activate it manually or have it flip on at a certain battery level. Android M adds a third option—voice.
Remember Rogue Squadron? Nintendo 64 and Gamecube owners, past or present, know what I'm talking about. This series of Star Wars games had players fully immersed in intergalactic battles that were stunning for the time. Alongside Star Fox, Nintendo consoles were the place to be for top-notch space shooters.
Edge of Oblivion: Alpha Squadron 2, the sequel to—you guessed it—Alpha Squadron, again unapologetically hearkens back to that era. Ship designs are similar enough to tempt a lawsuit, and the opening stage may have you feeling like you're speeding through the skies of Hoth (on one of its clearer days). The game contains two story-driven campaigns containing over 80 missions altogether, which involve blasting ships out of the sky and destroying key land-based targets.
Final Fantasy Tactics was an oddball when it was first released for the PlayStation in 1997 - ostensibly a member of the never-repeating (at the time) Final Fantasy series, the game broke from the familiar turn-based battles with a new isometric system that put a huge emphasis on tactical positioning and strategic use of classes and attack ranges. While FFT never got the attention of the standard numbered RPGs in the series, it became a sleeper hit, and the original was kept alive with a few sequels and remakes. It remains a popular game for PS1 emulators.
You won't need an emulator to play Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, at least not anymore.
Fix for multi-column layouts
From a user-facing standpoint, the only directly relatable change came to multi-column layouts in Chrome.
Digitally Imported Radio (or DI.FM, if you're accustomed to streaming through a browser) isn't a service we get to write about often. That's not because it's bad. It's just that the app lets you listen to over 80 human-curated channels of electronic music, and there's not much else to see.
But for the big leap to version 2.0, AudioAddict has given the Android version a complete visual overhaul. Digitally Imported Radio now looks less like something from the ICS days and more like old Pandora. The icon has also changed, as you can tell from the image near this post's title.
As you may have noticed, the new look isn't completely material.
This KMASHI 20000mAh external battery is bright blue. That alone should be enough to distinguish it from the couple dozen other external battery packs you've picked up over the years. When the local power grid fails for an entire month, you will be the one guy in town whose smartphone is actually better charged now than it was before everything went dark.
Wait, what was I talking about? Right, there's an external battery pack available on Amazon for $30. It's from KMASHI, and with the coupon code LIKWGR6D, you can bring that price down to $20.
Then once the mail person drops it at your door, you can charge it up, stick it in your drawer, and wait out the next local disaster.
The Facebook app takes a lot of heat (and with good reason), but the Facebook Messenger app is actually pretty alright at what it does. There's a new feature rolling out to this app today that lets you send a location to your friends as a message. It doesn't even have to be your location, just a location.
Sony hasn't officially announced a second iteration of its SmartBand activity tracker, but it doesn't have to. It's already done the next best thing. Today it has launched a new companion app into the Play Store that's simply titled SmartBand 2.
The images from the listing give us an idea of what to expect. There's a heart rate monitor on the underside of the band, and one of the screenshots reads: The SmartBand measures your pulse at an even rate through out the day. There's also a "smart wake up" feature to provide you with a smoother start to your morning.